Changing the Way U of I Trustees are Selected

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Representative Naomi Jakobsson has introduced a bill
(HB4688) in the 96tth General Assembly that would fundamentally
change the way trustees are selected at the
University of Illinois.
This legislation has two main elements:
The first is the establishment of a Trustees Selection
Task Force (TRUST Force) to review nominations and
make recommendations to the governor. Membership on
the TRUST Force would include the chairs of the three
campus senates, three acknowledged leaders in education
from outside the University of Illinois and four additional
persons with impeccable integrity. The credentials of all
members of the TRUST Force would be made public.
The second is the inclusion of three faculty members
on the U of I Board of Trustees, one from each campus.
The proposal for these changes originated with the
Campus Faculty Association at the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign and was first published as a Commentary
in The News-Gazette, July 26, 2009. It has since
gained the support of the Urbana-Champaign Senate and
the Champaign County AFL-CIO. Some considerations
underlying the proposal are included below.
Over the past sixteen years, we have seen two models
for the appointment of trustees in Illinois: an elected Board
and a Board appointed by the governor. Neither of these
models is without flaw and neither seems optimal for promoting
the best interests of the university.
The majority of public university boards were designed
at a time when states provided most of their operating revenues
and support from other sources was minor. Over
time, state funding has decreased to the point where the
designation “public university” is at risk. In Illinois, the
state currently provides approximately 18% of the university’s
operating budget, tuition accounts for 15% and faculty
grants provide 26%. Future governance of the university,
as embodied in its trustees, should reflect this change
in the institution’s economics and the breadth of oversight
While the governors of 47 states appoint all or a portion
of trustees at their respective institutions, many states
now include a screening committee to provide vetting and
advice to the governors. Illinois lacks such a body. The
proposed Trustees Selection Task Force (TRUST Force)
would fill that void. In receiving and making independent
recommendations, the TRUST Force would identify individuals
with proven leadership skills, commitment to the
institution, knowledge of the complex problems of higher
education, unquestionable integrity, a sincere desire to
serve the university and people of Illinois, and the time to
do so.
A Special Report in the Chronicle of Higher Education
(“Chronicle Survey: What Trustees Think,” vol. 53, no. 36,
May 11, 2007) clearly shows that many public university
board members are unprepared for the position and lack
knowledge of the complexities of higher education necessary
for effective service. Inclusion of faculty representatives
from each campus will help to address this problem.
Higher education is faced with complex problems and
wonderful opportunities, and faculty are arguably the constituency
most familiar with both. As the U of I goes forward,
it would be a shame, if not foolish, to neglect to
include that expertise in the governance of the institution.
Faculty representation on the board could also help to
avoid repetition of the types of problems faced in years
past. For example:
1. Long term failure of former Boards to request and
obtain appropriate resources from the State, even in
times of economic prosperity
2. Failure of former Boards to educate legislators
and citizens on the merits and activities of the U
of I so that they would champion resources for
the university
3. Interference with staff appointments and ‘questionable’
awarding of contracts
4. The ‘Clouted Admissions’ scandal
5. Politicization of the Board including “Pay to Play”.
Past trustees contributed more than $585,000 to
former Governor Rod Blagojevich
6. Transfer of university property to the U of I Foundation
and subsequent sale to donors at below market
7. Contracts that violate U of I policies and principles.
For example, contracts with Triple Canopy, Blackwater,
and the Academy on Capitalism and Limited
8. Silencing dissent and promoting an atmosphere of
fear and intimidation
9. Golden parachutes to ‘team players’
10. Increases in tuition while approving appropriation
of tens of millions of dollars to the Research Park
11. Imposition of ‘Economic Development’ as a fourth
mission of the university at the expense of the university
fulfilling its traditional three missions—
teaching, research and service
The rationale for change embodied in HB4688 is perhaps
best stated in University of Illinois President Stanley
Ikenberry’s thoughtful essay entitled, “Uncertain and
Unplanned: The Future of Public Higher Education,” Policy
Forum, vol. 17, 2005. Ikenberry wrote,
Public college and university governing boards need to
reflect the diversification in ‘publics’ to which they must
now be accountable and responsible. A fresh vision of
public university governing structures, consistent with
public interest, consistent with the emergence of new
stakeholders, and reflective of a clarified ‘state-public university
partnership’ or ‘social contract’ needs to be crafted.
The changes embedded in HB4688 represent a major
constructive step toward effective governance of the university
in the 21st century.
The text of this legislation can be found at:
Please contact Representative Naomi Jakobsson
( or 217-373-5000) to let
her know you support this legislation and volunteer to
help her bring it to a successful vote in Springfield.

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