- On Friday, February 24, at 3:00 G. W. Reid, the executive director of the IBHE (Illinois Board of Higher Education) will speak on performance based funding, and take questions. Faculty were encouraged to attend; he's not going to every campus, and this will be a good opportunity for SIUC faculty to give him our input and show our interest in this process.
- On February 29 President Poshard will speak on campus about employee pensions, from 1:30-3:00 in the student center auditorium.
Centralized hiring. We learned a bit more about the centralized hiring process. There is to be a faculty committee advising the Provost on position requests that make their way up from the departments and colleges. This committee will consist of four faculty chosen by the FS and Grad Council, and one chair; the make up of the committee was apparently not so heavy in faculty in the original plan, so this is a welcome development. Another positive development was the provost saying that there was an "expectation" that departments whose requests were denied would receive some explanation as to why they were denied, an explanation that might help them improve their chances next time around. But this whole process, of course, again raises for me the issue of whether the prime determination of individual hires belongs at the central administration level rather than the college level. It is essential that the central administration have the power to move money between colleges, I think, as demands and needs change over time. And the central administration should obviously review college level choices in some fashion, to ensure that colleges aren't making poor decisions given campus-wide needs. But I see no good reason to believe that the Provost and this committee will improve on priorities determined at the departmental and college level by ranking positions de novo. Imagine trying to rank a hire in philosophy versus one in dental hygiene. The provost several times stressed that he would consider all arguments units made, not just financial ones, but the repeated buzz words about "strategic hires" and "yields" suggest to me financial concerns will dominate at the central administrative level. Given the vast diversity of the position requests at that level, it is difficult to see how other concerns could play much of a role.
Enrollment. The Chancellor & Provost stressed the bright side of enrollment numbers; for the fourth term running we have more new students entering campus. I asked the Chancellor to explain her logic about smaller classes working their way through the system, and think I now better understand what she means. I take it that the argument is that because the entering class of 2012 was smaller than the entering class of 2011, when the 2011 class graduated last year we automatically took a hit in overall numbers. Once the larger classes work their way up the line, there will be no further such built-in declines. There are also some promising signs for next fall, with a 6% increase in freshman admissions and 2% increase in transfers. Of course there are all sorts of complications here—it's not as if our students graduate in lock step, after just four years. It would take a much more detailed look at all the numbers to see if we are really improving on recruitment and retention on all or most fronts; and comparison with peers would be needed for context. And until overall numbers start improving, we won't truly have turned the corner on this.
Budget. The IBHE has made its budget request, asking for a flat budget from the state. This budget would contain a "carve out" for performance based funding, but a rather small one of only 0.5%. The Chancellor is not convinced that the performance based rubrics well enough compensate SIUC and other similar schools for our mission to serve first-generation college students and other underrepresented groups, and to some extent the performance rubrics are still hobbled by the lack of relevant data to more fully measure things like research productivity (outside grants). There is some good news on the capital budget side, at least for those of you in the Comm building, which is ranked highly on the state's priority list for rehab.
Construction. Conversation here centered on what Woody Hall will be used for once the new Student Services building is up in the old site of the parking deck (where the advertisement banners have now returned after a few weeks vacation). It strikes me as somewhat odd that these plans are not yet finalized, but apparently there is no shortage of reasonable proposals for what to do with Woody. International programs seem likely to receive much of the (relatively) prime first floor real-estate. This of course raises the question of what will happen to their old digs (over at the NW Annex).
* You can send written comments to Stephen Ebbs at: email@example.com. When I shared this post with him, Bill Recktenwald rightly suggested I give people this address (and also reminded me of the open panel on program review held earlier this month).