La Tourette criticizes IBHE ‘butchering’ plan

By Brian Slupski

The Board of Regents criticized an Illinois Board of Higher Education process which will send many academic programs to their doom at its Thursday meeting.

The outpouring of criticism was the result of mission statements sent from the IBHE to the presidents of NIU, Sangamon State University at Springfield and Illinois State University at Normal. The statements are part of the IBHE’s Priorities, Quality and Productivity initiative.

NIU President John La Tourette said the mission statement the IBHE sent him a few weeks ago was very similar to NIU’s current statement—except for one moderate change.

However, La Tourette said he received a second statement from the IBHE Monday which “butchered NIU’s mission and was totally different from what had been communicated earlier.”

ISU President Thomas Wallace said his university was encouraged by the IBHE to evaluate their programs and submit a report.

“Now, with never even looking at our report they issue mission statements which could be used for cuts. There has been zero interaction with the universities and zero cooperation. The IBHE has made a joke of this process,” Wallace said.

Regent David Murphy said, “The IBHE arbitrarily and without power, changed the mission statements of the universities, which could be used as an excuse to make cuts.”

“These statements eliminate NIU’s professional studies and make SSU nothing,” Murphy said.

“(IBHE chairman) Arthur Quern doesn’t have all the support he thinks he has, the BOR might stand up to the IBHE, it might be time for the BOR to be more aggressive,” Murphy said.

La Tourette said the statements should not be left up to “a few people working in a dark room with green shades, quickly scribbling out mission statements.”

“We need a strong stand,” La Tourette said. “This is not a collaborative effort, then it is war.”

Regents Chancellor Roderick Groves said the Regents did not want to move unilaterally, but should instead encourage interaction and cooperation in the process with the IBHE.

Regent Murphy said Groves’ philosophy was nice but, “that’s not how things work in the real world at this time. I like the process and try to follow it, but they haven’t.”

The Regents then agreed that Regents Chairman Brewster Parker should send a letter immediately to the IBHE affirming the board’s stand. The Regents’ resolution stated that the board “believes in and affirms the mission statements of our universities and the method by which those have been developed and we feel that it is important that the present content of those statements and the perspective of the universities be given full consideration if any mission statements changes are to be adopted.”

La Tourette said the letter would be most effective if IBHE Executive Director Richard Wagner received it by Friday. “If we get no response, then we’ll have to assume other means are needed. We can’t sit and wait to be put on the chopping block.”