Senate pushes BOR to brink

By Brian Slupski

A state senate bill that calls for the elimination of the Board of Regents and the creation of an individual governing board for NIU was passed Friday and now will go to the state House of Representatives.

Senate Bill 987 would eliminate the Board of Governors and the Regents and create individual boards for the universities they oversee, except for Sangamon State University in Springfield, which would be placed in the University of Illinois system.

In a prepared statement, Regents Chancellor Roderick Groves criticized the plan, saying it is resulting from politics and adding that it is not in the best interest of state public higher education.

“The reorganization issue always has been more partisan than logical, more motivated by political gain than by educational value,” Groves said.

The bill, which came out of Lt. Gov. Bob Kustra’s office, was expected to pass the Republican-controlled senate, but it could encounter problems in the Democrat-dominated house.

State Sen. Bradley Burzynski, R-Sycamore, one of the bill’s sponsors in the senate, said he doesn’t expect the legislation to emerge from the house unchanged.

“We want to keep the intent of the bill, but we also want changes in the governing system, and politics is the art of compromise,” Burzynski said.

He said he did not want to see any changes in the legislation concerning the Regents. He said he would like to see NIU and Illinois State University in Normal get their own board, with SSU still being placed under the U of I system.

State Rep. David Wirsing, R-Sycamore, said there seems to be agreement in the house that SSU should be placed under U of I. There is opposition, however, to NIU and ISU getting their own boards.

“There’s a political problem with NIU and ISU getting their own board. If they get their own board and Eastern Illinois University and Western Illinois University don’t, they’ll jump up and down.

“I think there will be some changes to the system. There seems to be support for some kind of change, but it is difficult to pinpoint right now,” Wirsing said.

Wirsing said he is supportive of Kustra’s original plan. However, he said there is opposition in the house to giving all the universities their own boards.

State Rep. Bill Edley, D-Macomb, is not in favor of creating seven new boards and said there is not much support in the house for the plan.

Edley has sponsored a “shell” bill in the House in an effort to develop an alternative to Kustra’s plan. The shell bill is an empty piece of legislation, which through amendments might be developed into a concrete alternative to Kustra’s plan.

He said he would like to see the Governors and the Regents placed under one board because the creation of individual boards would be costly and increase bureaucracy.

“We should consolidate the governance structure and save money, we should move money from the board room to the classroom,” Edley said.

Edley said he would like to empower the universities with more responsibilities while diminishing the role of the boards.

“I would like to see some changes in the system, but there haven’t been any for 25 years because this is a tough process,” Edley said.