Beneath the "Purple and Gold!"

General Campus News, Updates, Discussion
User avatar
Neckfansince71
Posts: 992
Joined: Sat Apr 19, 2014 7:06 pm

Okay, some of you have wondered where I have been. Well, I am still here and proudly wearing the Purple and Gold. I am not going away, I am not giving up, and I want only the best for my alma mater. I will wear a purple and gold necktie to the grave fyi! So I am going to present some history and ideas and some analysis of where have been, where we are, and where we are going in my opinion. Hope you don't mind the historical references.

Beware of the slides of March!

We all recognized the slide. How many times did we debate and talk about Truman State? Should we specialize, could we specialize, or should we continue to do what was always done as WIU tried to meet the needs of “everyone!” Less seniors, more leaving the state to go to schools like MiamiO, Mizzou, Iowa etc. WIU’s reaction was to freeze tuition for four years. Schools in the surrounding states seemed to go lower. When this did not stop the slide, Matt Biermann presented to the president and the BOT his financial answer to the future. It was bold and would require a different way of thinking, but Jack and the gang said no. Matt was off to Illinois Wesleyan shortly after.

At this point it seemed like the quad cities campus might stem the tide. An engineering school in the home town of John Deere and close to Cat in Peoria made sense. We built some nice buildings, a kiss for luck and we were on our way. But then.......
User avatar
Neckfansince71
Posts: 992
Joined: Sat Apr 19, 2014 7:06 pm

So it almost happened! Waiting for gamming to arrive!

I was talking to Bill Epperly the other day (former BOT member) and he said, “if the estimates for the PAC had come in with in reason, WIU would have had a classy performing arts center. Instead, the bids came back high and the whole thing was put on hold, even though we had already broken ground with governor Quinn and Goldfarb in attendance. And if Quinn had been re-elected, we would have a nice venue nestled between Corbin/Olson and Brown because there would have time to rebid this project. Instead, Gov. Rauner stopped all capital projects including some that were already under construction. The buildings in the quad cities were finished, but Macomb once again was the “odd man out!”

So now WIU has been promised it’s performing arts center due to the fact that the funds supposedly are already to be dispersed, but who knows when that will happen. Instead, capital projects throughout the state which include higher education are waiting for money from gaming to fit the bill! I have said many times, “just give us some cranes on campus. Give WIU the evidence that it will be around another 100 years." You know, funny thing is, that the board of Higher Ed. Never planned on closing WIU. Those rumors were created by news people and analysts who looked at enrollment numbers but failed to understand the financial impact something that drastic would have created. WIU is not closing! Its not moving to the quad cities although I hope that our engineering school stays there and grows. Oh what a construction project would do!!!!!!
User avatar
Neckfansince71
Posts: 992
Joined: Sat Apr 19, 2014 7:06 pm

Gotta cut cut cut!

So, it seems to me that President Thomas basically responded with cuts as enrollment dropped and the budget was reduced. Rauner could have cared less about higher ed. And it did seem like his strategy was to “cull the heard” when he decided to not pass a budget which stopped state support for WIU for two years. So WIU was already feeling the enrollment decline and add to that Rauner’s impass and all Dr. Thomas could do was to make cuts and work the halls of Springfield. Jack was good at working the halls in Springfield which did not hurt WIU, but it did not help it either. Furlough days, staff reduction by not hiring retiring employees with little hope for the future really took the air out of Macomb’s tire! I think a lot of people in Macomb just put their heads down and worked the situation. Others left, and the faculty union began to get their dander up as no relief seemed in sight. Add to that was the fact that the “westside” was in dire need of a face lift which had been championed by TV years before. Also during that time Coach Neilsen decided to bolt with most of this staff. Coach Fisher was the spark that kept things going but even he moved on after WIU lost to Weber State in the playoffs.

(Note: ST, Tere, correct me and add anything that you might see fit to add.)
User avatar
Neckfansince71
Posts: 992
Joined: Sat Apr 19, 2014 7:06 pm

So Dr. Martin Abraham arrives at WIU only to find a bit of a mess!! In fact we have a "major clean up in aisle 1!" From Provost to Acting President, he takes up residency in Olson Hall until his wife arrives and it just so happens that it is "Heritage Days!" Being the people person he is he heads up town and the "healing process begins!" You know, as a child I had some pretty big bumps and bruises and I was always very surprised at the hole that was created in my knee every time I skinned it. It would scab over but then the scab would fall off and I would be left with a divot. It would again scab over and the process of healing from the inside out would continue. That is exactly what needed to happen at WIU/Macomb and Dr. Abraham turned out to be just the man to begin the process. I have had the opportunity to talk with him 4 times and I continue to be impressed with his ability to make personal contact with people, friends, alumni, faculty coaches, townsfolk, Springfield connections, you name it and he has already touched base with them. He might have his PhD in Chemical Engineering, but it seems to me that he has a double major in "human chemistry!" Now we all know that as time goes on he is going to do things that will displease some groups of people, but you can be assured that he is making his decisions for the good of WIU/Macomb and the people that live and work there.

For some reason I felt like Dr. Thomas was trapped behind the seawall at Normandy Beach, unable to move forward in the face of "withering fire" , even though remaining in his position would result in more destruction to the university. Dr. Thomas and company were guilty of "lack of positive movement." People needed a feather of hope to hold on too, a reason to give them hope. "More furloughs and cuts (even to admissions and marketing), just keeping your WIU head down and moving on without direction" was not good for anyone and the result at times were people moving on. We lost Biermann, Borst, and Minter to name a few.

There has been for years the need for WIU/Macomb to "clean its dirty laundry!" Seems like some members of the community and university have not felt welcomed, especially those of color. Mayor Inman has hosted open forums to address this issue, and Dr. Abraham, after visiting with students and staff wrote this "call to action" statement which can be found in the Courier and the internet address below.

https://issuu.com/thewestercourier/docs ... iQk5ZYHpgs

And finally, the new admissions director also has hit the floor running. I constantly look for pics of "Discover Western" activities and its obvious that the number of students attending is continuing to grow. Just take a look for yourselves if you need more proof. Admissions also hosted a gathering for admitted and interested students in Oak Brook last week and I am happy to tell you that the numbers in attendance have continued to grow too. The new admit policies and scholarships available so far seems right on target.

Remember that things take time. WIU/Macomb is not a motor boat that can turn immediately from side to side, but an ocean liner that turns and gradually pics up steam. There are more decisions to be made. I think the Quadcities campus needs to be part of WIU but with a different mission. It is too valuable an asset to just toss to the side. Engineering and master degree programs might work nicely there. Master degree programs in law enforcement is on the rise as more and more communities require an MS to continue working. The great thing is, WIU is moving and everyone knows it. Enough said! ;) jc
User avatar
ST_Lawson
Site Admin
Posts: 6112
Joined: Wed Apr 16, 2014 1:15 pm
Location: Macomb, IL
Contact:

Neckfansince71 wrote:
Wed Oct 23, 2019 9:06 pm
Gotta cut cut cut!

So, it seems to me that President Thomas basically responded with cuts as enrollment dropped and the budget was reduced. Rauner could have cared less about higher ed. And it did seem like his strategy was to “cull the heard” when he decided to not pass a budget which stopped state support for WIU for two years. So WIU was already feeling the enrollment decline and add to that Rauner’s impass and all Dr. Thomas could do was to make cuts and work the halls of Springfield. Jack was good at working the halls in Springfield which did not hurt WIU, but it did not help it either. Furlough days, staff reduction by not hiring retiring employees with little hope for the future really took the air out of Macomb’s tire! I think a lot of people in Macomb just put their heads down and worked the situation. Others left, and the faculty union began to get their dander up as no relief seemed in sight.
The impression that I got (and what I heard from people a bit more "in the know" than myself) was essentially that Rauner wanted to turn most higher ed in the state into essentially a bunch of business or trade schools. Not saying there's anything wrong with those...they're very much necessary...but there's also still a need for more traditional "higher ed". Anyway, not passing the budget and continuing to cut funding for higher ed forced the schools to have to make cuts. Rauner wanted cuts to things like liberal arts-style programs, so he made that known to the university BOT, who fulfilled his "mandate" by cutting African American Studies, Philosophy, Religious Studies and Women’s Studies majors.

I will say that it seemed like Dr. Thomas was stuck between a rock and a hard place, with the governor wanting further cuts and the local faculty and staff strongly criticizing him for those cuts (and the lack of communication/transparency regarding those cuts), but he and our local politicians did Western no favors when they were in Springfield. Often when asked about the state of the university and the community, they would not reveal the true situation here. One person that I know who is an employee here and is also very politically involved traveled down and had a meeting with some of Governor Pritzker's staff members shortly after he was elected, so that they could find out what the situation was. They were flabbergasted to hear how bad it was here...the only word they'd gotten from President Thomas, State Senator Jil Tracy, and Representative Norine Hammond was that things were essentially "fine" (as in, not struggling any more than any other university at this point).
Scott Lawson - Board Admin
Western Illinois University Alum/Fan/Employee
Member of the Marching Leathernecks - 1996-2000
User avatar
Neckfansince71
Posts: 992
Joined: Sat Apr 19, 2014 7:06 pm

ST, my biggest "bitch" about Dr. Thomas (and he is a gentleman period!) was the fact that there was no forward plan! Would have liked for him to have a say publicly regarding Rauner's lack of support. It may have hurt his relationship with the Governor and his buddies but would have gone a long way in keeping people's confidence regarding the future of WIU. The real problem was that WIU was mentioned along with other schools as having a decreasing enrollment and then was associated with schools that might close. It turned out that the IBHE never ever considered closing WIU but the damage had been done. Guidance counselor's at my old high school were asking about or just flat out saying, "I heard WIU is closing!" or "I heard WIU is moving to the Quadcities!" I just wanted to scream, "WTF!" Have heard that some of the schools in the MVFC used that to our recruit us for the past couple of years. (Can anyone say South Dakota North Dakota!) So, thankfully WIU and the Leatherneck cause is back in business with leadership for the future! ;) jc
wiu712
Posts: 5381
Joined: Tue Apr 22, 2014 2:05 pm

Fear of a Black Campus: How an ugly campaign to force out an African-American university president exposed racial fault lines in a mostly white town.
From "The Chronicle of Higher Education":
https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/ ... MlZKbDVkOA
rocki
Posts: 1001
Joined: Sat Apr 19, 2014 9:08 pm

wiu712 wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 12:05 pm
Fear of a Black Campus: How an ugly campaign to force out an African-American university president exposed racial fault lines in a mostly white town.
From "The Chronicle of Higher Education":
https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/ ... MlZKbDVkOA
Who knew this magazine/newspaper/whatever it is would be right up there with The Weekly World News?
User avatar
ST_Lawson
Site Admin
Posts: 6112
Joined: Wed Apr 16, 2014 1:15 pm
Location: Macomb, IL
Contact:

rocki wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 1:22 pm
wiu712 wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 12:05 pm
Fear of a Black Campus: How an ugly campaign to force out an African-American university president exposed racial fault lines in a mostly white town.
From "The Chronicle of Higher Education":
https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/ ... MlZKbDVkOA
Who knew this magazine/newspaper/whatever it is would be right up there with The Weekly World News?
I don't think there's anything in the article that was incorrect. There is racism in the community...I've seen it. It might be the minority, but it's here.

A big part of the issue is that the people behind the "Fire Jack" campaign didn't really start anything until Brad Bainter was fired, and even then, it was only Dr. Thomas that they wanted gone. The problems with enrollment and everything were in large part because of our governor at the time, our local lawmakers, and our BOT at the time, and yet they only wanted Dr. Thomas gone (while many of them were voting for the people who actually caused the problem in the first place).

There weren't any "Fire Rauner", "Fire Noreen Hammond", or "Fire Jil Tracy" signs, yet they had way more to do with the state of our community than Dr. Thomas did.

Because of the situation, our international and minority students have seen a marked increase in harassment and outright threats, which is something that anyone with any connection to the university or community should be concerned with. The people doing the harassing are a small number, but they are here.
This article has a bit more info including a photo of the "red truck" that has been causing many of the problems: https://capitolfax.com/2019/11/05/yes-i ... en-here-2/
Scott Lawson - Board Admin
Western Illinois University Alum/Fan/Employee
Member of the Marching Leathernecks - 1996-2000
rocki
Posts: 1001
Joined: Sat Apr 19, 2014 9:08 pm

Scott, you have your opinion and I have mine. And that's OK.

I'm sure there is racism in the area and probably on campus as well. With that said, I think this article is painting the town and university with a pretty broad brush to insinuate it is the dominant trait of the area.

Also, since they know the truck in question and have pictures of it, why don't they use the license plate number to find out exactly who the horrible people in question are? I don't approve of this type of behavior, and believe that keeping silent about who the troublemakers are just adds to the fear and trepidation.
Post Reply