Editorial: Potential Aviation shutdown handled deviously

Thursday, the Institute of Aviation could receive a mandate to close its doors forever within three years.

It’s a controversy that, in the scheme of things, came together fairly quickly.

After Interim Chancellor Robert Easter sponsored a report outlining reasons why the institute should close last year, the matter quickly snowballed, being presented at discussion panels and voted on at faculty meetings.

Now, less than a year after the original recommendation was released to the public, the University’s Board of Trustees has the opportunity to shut the program down.

There are a few points about this process that sit uneasily with us.

When the original board report was posted last week, there was no sign of an Aviation recommendation on it. Instead, the proposal was added late Friday afternoon as an additional item, sparking questions as to why it was moved up to this meeting instead of being voted on in Urbana at the board’s September meeting.

University spokesman Tom Hardy says the item had simply not been finalized until it was released, and its late addition is not an uncommon occurrence.

But regardless of that suspicion, the benefits for the board in voting on an agenda item that effectively ends an entire school now are clear: In addition to ending the debate sooner, we are less likely to see faculty and staff against the closure make an appearance at a meeting that is hosted during summer break on a campus that isn’t their own.

And with the debate surrounding this measure — the Urbana faculty senate voted against closing it 57 to 54, while another vote with a smaller academic body yielded two votes in favor of closing the Institute, four against closure and three abstentions — it’s concerning that the vote will take place far away from the campus the program calls home.

While merely including the item on the agenda is not the absolute death knell for the program, the fact that it has made it this far with so much resistance is not a good sign. And while we implore the board to consider otherwise, we face the reality that this has a high chance of passing.

Closing an entire educational unit is a desperate measure that requires a serious amount of open and honest debate.

Pushing this proposal through while eliminating the brunt of the resistance the board will face is not the solution.