Faculty representation on Board yet to be determined by House

The creators of pending Illinois legislation that would give the University’s faculty representation on the Board of Trustees said they are cautious to predict the fate of the bill.

The bill, titled House Bill 4688, would give seats to three faculty members, one from each campus in the University of Illinois system, and would let them cast legally binding votes at meetings.

State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-103, filed the bill with the Illinois House of Representatives on Nov. 23. The bill is now in the House Rules Committee, where it has been since Jan. 4.

Jakobsson said it has not moved in more than a month because she is still looking to amend the first draft of the bill.

“Once it gets written, we will look to move it along,” she said. “This is still a work in progress.”

Former Board of Trustees Chair Larry Eppley said it is hard to argue against faculty representation when University students have three seats, one of which gets a vote. However, Eppley said the board already took steps when he was chair to ensure communication and between the board and faculty.

“We did a lot to increase the level of faculty involvement in board meetings and board items that pertained to faculty,” he said.

University spokesman Tom Hardy said the University has kept a neutral position on the bill.

“We are neither for nor against it,” Hardy said.

Jakobsson said she wants to clarify how some of the bill was written, including the second part, which creates a task force to review and recommend new members of the Board of Trustees who are appointed by the governor. She would not disclose any specific wording that may be amended.

The way the bill is written, the Trustee Selection Task Force could only receive, review and recommend nominees after the governor makes the nomination.

“There is nothing in it that would prevent the governor, technically, from ignoring recommendations of that trust force,” said Mark Leff, associate professor in History and member of the Campus Faculty Association, the organization that proposed the bill to Jakobsson.

However, Leff, who acknowledged the bill is at an early stage, said its criteria for membership on the task force would make the selection process more balanced.

He said there are requirements in the bill that a certain number of people need to be appointed with backgrounds and expertise in higher education.

“Anything we can do to increase the role of people who actually have a full commitment and knowledge about higher education is going to put us in a better position,” he said.

John D’Angelo, professor of mathematics, said members of the faculty deserve a seat on the Board of Trustees partly because of the grant money they bring in. A member of the University’s faculty since 1978, D’Angelo said other faculty members with decades of experience at the University should be allowed to have a vote, even though he said he would not want to be a trustee.

“To deny us representation is fundamentally an insult,” he said.

Even with faculty support of the bill the way it is, Leff said the final content of the bill that gets voted on will likely look different.

Trustee Carlos Tortolero said he supports the bill, adding that “it would make the board stronger.”

After a difficult year that brought about an investigation to the University’s admissions process and a financial crisis, Tortolero said new input will be welcome on the board.

“It’s time to move forward as one and to have a single goal of making the University of Illinois the best it can be,” he said.