Administrators address student concerns at SGA meeting


Josh Purnell/Courier Staff

Marc Ramirez, Edge editor

The Student Government Association held a General Assembly Special Session Tuesday evening for students to voice concerns to Western Illinois University administration members in attendance.

University President Jack Thomas, Director of Residential and Auxiliary Facilities Joe Roselieb, Interim Provost and Academic Vice President Billy Clow, Associate Provost for Budgeting, Planning and Personnel Russ Morgan and Bill Polley, Interim Vice President for Administrative Services were all in attendance.

“The purpose of today is to give students the opportunity to ask questions and ask important questions,” Aaron Steele, SGA Speaker of the Senate said. “The other purpose of today is to give administrators the opportunity to provide important and relevant information to students leaders.”

The forum began with administrators introducing themselves followed by questions from students leaders.

“As you all know, we went two years without a budget here in the state of Illinois, Thomas said.” That meant that we didn’t get any funding for two years and prior to that since 2002 we have lost, not only Western Illinois University, but all institutions, about 48 percent of our state appropriated funding and we’ve had reductions since 2002 and when we got a budget after the budget impasse, we still got about 15 percent less than what we got in 2015.”

This year, the University was given a two percent increase, which was still eight percent less than what was given in 2015. On top of this, the decrease in enrollment caused a crisis of confidence in students leaving the state of Illinois. This put the state second behind New Jersey in the amount of students seeking higher education out of state.

“I wanted to set the stage for this conversation when you start asking questions about what we have done and why we had to do that,” Thomas said. “We have to make ends meet and we have to make sure that the University is viable and that’s what we have done as administrators. It is not our fault, no one did this, it’s just that the state did not come through and we’ve been dealing with this for a number of years, even prior to my arrival here at Western. No one thought that we wouldn’t get a budget for two consecutive years.”

Thomas continued by adding that the newly elected Governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, announced that he will be giving institutions a five percent increase in addition to giving more in MAP funding and AIM HIGH funding. Thomas explains that this, however, will still not be enough.

Next to the podium was Roselieb. He oversees the the University Union and housing and dining facilities.

“I am here to answer any questions about housing and dining, the Union and student services in general,” Roselieb said.

Following was Clow introducing himself as Interim Provost and Academic Vice President as well as the Dean of Fine Arts and Communication. Morgan, Associate Provost for Budgeting, Planning and Personnel, works with budgets, planning with academic affairs and personnel issues across the University. He also oversees the Human Resources Office in addition to being a psychology professor and a contract administrator.

Polley, Interim Vice President for Administrative Services, deals with the Business Office, facilities, OPS, human resources and purchasing. He also serves as the Chief Financial Officer of Western.

“If anyone has questions about the overall University finances I can try and answer those for you,” Polley said.

After introductions, students lined up behind the microphone to ask questions to the various administrators in attendance. The first question was asked by Colton Markey, Director of Academic Affairs for SGA.

“How did you decide which programs got cut,” Markey asked.

Clow explained that programs that were decided to be eliminated were proposed by the Academic Program Elimination Review Committee. The committee goes forth and does lots of information and data review on majors across the board in order to find low enrolled programs that have less than 40 people enrolled in the major and produces less than 10 graduates a year. It starts as a recommendation and is presented before the Board of Trustees for final decision. The report is determined over a five year span so if a program consistently doesn’t reach numbers, they will end up on the list for elimination.

Next to the podium was Minerva Diaz who asked if administration and university officials attempted to negotiate with faculty and staff who were let go to adjust salary in order to minimize layoffs. Morgan said that if students remember, the university was in a long negotiation UPI to settle contracts. However, negotiations were not enough to keep the University viable without making cuts.

Over the course of the meeting, several students had questions as to why their programs or staff and faculty within the programs were cut. The administration repeatedly responded with the explanation that the APER report was the main factor and hard decisions needed to be made in order to keep the University afloat. It was also explained that specific people were not eliminated, their positions were. Chairs and Deans were responsible for deciding what needed to be cut within their department in order to ensure that the program could still run successfully. Seniority also played a huge role in who was able to stay at the University due to contract agreements with the UPI.

If students have more questions or concerns, they can voice them to Thomas. He will be able to point students in the right direction by giving them the best answers possible.