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Vote to borrow funds from SIUE delayed after discussion stalls at board meeting:Late agenda item not unanimously approved is cause of the delay

Submitted by Carbondale Times on

Dustin Duncan
Weekend Times

The Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees had a proposal in front of it to borrow money from the Edwardsville campus to the Carbondale campus, but due to one no voice vote to discuss the item, the board was unable to vote or even hold a discussion. 

SIU President Randy Dunn said the board will most likely have to hold a special meeting in early- to mid-May to discuss the item. Chances are that the board will also be able to move forward with hiring a chancellor at that time, he said. 

The proposal was stopped by Trustee Shirley Portwood, who voted no on a voice vote to allow the board to take up the item. Dunn said since the item was added late to the agenda, it needed to have a unanimous vote from the board to even discuss it.  

The item would have allowed Carbondale to borrow unrestricted funds from Edwardsville to keep it from falling into deficit spending. Dunn said the transfer would have been on paper only and wouldn’t include the transfer of cash. 

Portwood did not provide an explanation for her vote. 

The Carbondale campus has already gone through its own unrestrictive reserves and borrowed what it could from the SIU School of Medicine without jeopardizing that campus’ financial future. Dunn said Thursday that without the borrowing of funds, the Carbondale campus could operate for about six weeks, without it operating in deficit spending, but it was difficult to put a solid number on it. 

During the public comments portion of the meeting, there were a few audience members from both the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses that were less than happy about the potential cuts and internal borrowing within the

university’s system.  

SIU Carbondale Faculty Association President David Johnson said he understood the anger from his Edwardsville colleagues and he said if the shoe were on the other foot, he’s sure the same sentiment would happen in Carbondale. 

Johnson said Dunn — who was also serving as Carbondale’s interim chancellor at the beginning of the Springfield budget crisis — chose to bet that the state would figure out its financial problems and provide higher education with 

adequate funding. 

He said he doesn’t blame Dunn for making that decision, because nobody could have predicated that Illinois would be in its almost 22nd month without a state budget, but since he made that “bet,” its up to him and the board to find a way for Carbondale to pay off money it owes. 

Kim Archer, an associate professor at Edwardsville, made some stinging comments to the board about Carbondale’s situation. 

She said the Edwardsville campus made hard financial sacrifices to make it through the budget crisis, and it was tough to learn it would have to support Carbondale after being financial prudent itself. 

“Carbondale didn’t make cuts, at least not enough, and they didn’t make adjustments, at least not enough,” she said. 

“The medical school will tell you that it’s ethically questionable to give an addict a new kidney without first requiring some treatment,” she said. “The SIU Edwardsville faculty are asking you to recognize that Carbondale seems to be an addict to its own traditions, to its own ways, to its 

own reputation.”

Those things are changing, and so must SIUC. So, before we give up a kidney at SIUE and trust me, it will feel like that at SIU Edwardsville, we must pledge to our own educational communities, to our students, to their families, to the people who live in the Metro East area, that this is a safe investment, and that it is minimal risk and that we’re not trading away what we worked so hard for to bail out another school that didn’t work

that hard.”

SIU Interim Chancellor Brad Cowell defended the Carbondale campus after the meeting, saying Carbondale has made painful cuts — $21 million recently and now $30 million to be identified by July 1.

The amount of money that Carbondale would need to borrow is unclear, Dunn said, because it is difficult to predict how long the budget impasse will last. He said he didn’t want to make the request more than once, but he also said the borrowing wouldn’t get to a point where it would affect Edwardsville’s reserve enough to make the campus vulnerable. 

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