Urbana campus moves one step closer to proposed College of Medicine

By Abigale Svoboda

After several months of deliberation, the academic senate voted in favor of an Urbana College of Medicine on Monday. The proposal will now move forward for approval by the Board of Trustees at its March 12 meeting.

President Robert Easter is expected to report back on his own study on whether a new bioengineering medicine college should form in Chicago or Urbana.

Gay Miller, chair of the committee on educational policy, said the committee has been reviewing the proposal since the University received preliminary approval in September.

Prior to the presenting the proposal, the committee received support from the Committee on University Statutes and Senate Procedures and the Budget committee, as well as a letter signed by all campus deans.

Provost Ilesanmi Adesida said the proposal is something that has been percolating on the Urbana campus for 50 years. Adesida said creating a new college would be historic for many reasons, as the Urbana campus has not created a new college in over 60 years.

Carle Health System has committed $100 million to fund the college, but any additional funding will need to be raised by the school. Chancellor Phyllis Wise said the University will receive no additional funding from the general revenue fund to create the college.

Joe Barkmeier, a radiologist at Carle Foundation Hospital, said the hospital is a tertiary hospital for over 1.5 million people in the Eastern Illinois region and serves over 70,000 people in the emergency room annually.

Marty Burke, a biochemistry department affiliate who trained at Harvard University, called the proposed college a game changer.

“This is an opportunity to do something that will be absolutely unmatched in the entire world,” Burke said.

Burke said Urbana’s strength and leadership in both engineering and the basic sciences will make the proposed college a double threat.

Following Burke’s statements, John Caughlin, a communications professor, voiced support for the college on behalf of the communication’s department. Caughlin said the University was initially a leader in the field of health communication but is starting to fall behind. Prospective students turn to alternative schools when they realize the Urbana campus does not have a College of Medicine for them to further their research, he said.

Michele Mariscalo, dean of the College of Medicine at the University of Illinois’ Chicago campus, said the college has been present on the Urbana campus for 45 years now. Mariscalo said the faculty on all of the University’s campuses work hard and may be negatively affected if a College of Medicine is created on the Urbana campus.

In response, Adesida said the Urbana college will have a new and different curriculum, which will not integrate well with Chicago’s current curriculum.

“Illinois is a leader,” Adesida said. “We take risks and we lead.”

After over an hour of discussion, the senate additionally approved the Illinois Faculty for Academic Freedom resolution by a 51-41 vote. The resolution was written by history professor Bruce Levine and submitted by 13 University members. It urged the chancellor, president and Board of Trustees to implement all of the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure’s recommendations promptly, including to appoint a committee in the college of LAS to investigate Steven Salaita’s case.

The University is currently facing a lawsuit from Salaita and the possibility of censure from the Association of American University Professors. University professor in English Cary Nelson said the AAUP will vote about censure in June.

Abigale can be reached at [email protected]