The university’s fiscal situation, racial discrimination concerns and news of positive enrollment signs were the focus of the semester’s last Faculty Senate meeting.
Chancellor Rita Cheng and Provost John Nicklow made announcements at Tuesday’s meeting about the fiscal year 2013 budget, pensions, and an influx in applicants. Cheng also addressed senators’ concerns over a recent incident of racial intolerance on campus.
Cheng said the fiscal year 2013 college budget reductions have been finalized.
“There are really no additional budget reductions necessary for this year,” she said.
Cheng also discussed pensions and how the university is trying to support them.
“We continue to advocate on behalf of our employees,” she said. “Obviously, it’s a cloud that hangs over all of our heads.”
Cheng said the university is willing to pay its share for pension to secure SIU’s employees.
“We need to remain competitive on the marketplace, but we also need to recognize that (many) people have (many) years in the system … so we want to sustain that,” she said. “And if that means we have to pick up part of the cost, we will do so.”
Cheng said while the university will pay for pension costs, SIU cannot create its own fiscal cliff by covering all the costs immediately and will take a balanced approach toward pensions.
Cheng also addressed a recent campus issue of racial prejudice at Tuesday’s meeting.
Graffiti was recently found on a university greenhouse that included racially insensitive language regarding blacks. She said her office has not received any phone calls about the graffiti, but the campus should be sensitive toward racial differences.
Holly Hurlburt, associate professor in history, said she had concerns about the issue, especially because a student sent a letter to a local newspaper stating that Carbondale race relations are not at an ideal state.
She said the statement is worrying, especially if word gets out.
“Whether this alleged mistreatment is accurate or not, if the perception is widely spread that African-Americans and other minorities are not being treated to the respect due them … this seems like a potentially big problem for both current retention and future recruitment,” she said.
Hurlburt asked what the faculty could do to respond to this and how they could let minority students know they are valued at the university. Cheng said she shares the concern, but no one has come forward to say they have been affected in any way.
“My concerns is that none of the claims have been substantiated, yet they continue to be part of this innuendo,” she said.
Cheng said the best thing to do is let minority students know there are channels and methods to deal with these types of incidents if there is a problem.
Nicklow also shared some news about the university’s future.
He said this week had one of the largest weekly volumes of student applications he has ever seen, and the university is up 12 percent from last year. He said while this data comes from only one source, the information from the housing contracts are also a good indicator of what might happen.
“Housing contracts went from a 34 percent deficit last week to a positive 8 percent increase this week,” he said. “Something happened.”
Nicklow said the university received 1,200 applications last week and 1,300 this week. He said he checked data from previous years and has never seen a week with this many applications to the university. He said he is cautiously optimistic about enrollment because of these figures.
Nicklow said the scholarship weekend in January is expected to bring in 400-600 students. This is a much larger event than past years and a sign of good progress, he said.
Nicklow said the incoming students are high-quality students, and it will be the responsibility of teachers to keep them interested in the university. He said most of the students who applied have an ACT composite of 28 or higher.
“The number (of students who have scores) of 32, 33, 34 ACTs is astounding,” he said.