Regents debate projects

By Eric Krol

A prioritized list of capital improvement projects was among the main topics of debate at Friday’s Board of Regents meeting.

The Regents, meeting at Springfield’s Sangamon State University, unanimously approved a list of projects for NIU, SSU and Illinois State University, but not without a few questions.

NIU landed seven of the 14 projects on the list, including the Regency system’s top priority, six million dollars for engineering building equipment.

Other NIU projects to make the list included $5.4 million for the Rockford education center building, $200,000 for asbestos removal from Graham Hall and $5 million for the Stevens Building renovations.

The list will be forwarded to the Illinois Board of Higher Education. The IBHE, which governs state public universities and colleges, makes up a final prioritized list to submit to the governor.

Regent Clara Fitzpatrick questioned why Chancellor Roderick Groves’ office did not list all of the Regency school projects on the list. “The list is going to IBHE, why don’t we show them all we need?” she said.

Regent David Murphy said he agreed. “Why don’t we prioritize all projects?” he said.

Groves pointed to the state’s current financial situation. “It’s a balancing act. We’re trying to show restraint,” he said. “We could easily justify a 25 percent salary increase as well but it would lay us open to ridicule,” Groves added.

Regent Carl Kasten asked whether Regency schools would be “penalized” for not putting projects on the list. “If there’s a pecking order, will projects not listed now have prejudice against them in five years?” he said.

Groves said the important thing is to make the IBHE list.

Projects left off the priority list, including money for planning NIU’s College of Business building, came into question as well.

Regents Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs John Pembroke cited a trend for public universities constructing new buildings.

Pembroke said schools are increasingly getting donations of land and matching funds before asking for state funding.

“The outside money is not in place,” Pembroke said of NIU’s College of Business building.

But Murphy questioned this trend saying, “The more we get from the private sector, the less we get from the state.” He said he wondered whether the state is getting off the hook in funding.

Regents Chairman Brewster Parker said the federal government has shown this attitude as well over the last few years.

Groves said the state is not necessarily shirking its responsibility. Groves gave the University of Illinois-Urbana’s methods as an example. “It’s a nice precedent, we should jump on board,” Groves said.