Updates to faculty layoff plan and other stuff

General Campus News, Updates, Discussion
GV Dad
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A lot of info there, thanks for taking the time to post it!
rocki
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Neckerchief wrote:
Wed Jun 12, 2019 1:38 pm
Here is the entire article:

As a Town’s Fortunes Fall, Blame Shifts to Its University’s Beleaguered President
By Jack Stripling JUNE 10, 2019

Western Illinois University’s Board of Trustees is slated to vote this week on Jack Thomas’s contract as president, bringing culmination to a novel leadership crisis that is deeply injected with local politics and issues of race.

Thomas, who in 2011 became the university’s first black president, has overseen a period of declining enrollment and layoffs at Western Illinois, a former teacher’s college in Macomb, about 75 miles west of Peoria. In a town of about 18,000 people, who depend on the 6,800-student university for employment, and which relies on students to fuel the economy, the university’s downturn has fed frustrations that are increasingly aimed at Thomas. He, in turn, has sought presidencies elsewhere.

In recent weeks, signs that say “Fire Jack” have been placed along roadsides. The same message briefly appeared on the marquee of an old theater, now a nightclub with cheap liquor that caters to students.

There are legitimate concerns about the direction of the university under Thomas’s leadership, but the racial optics of a town that is nearly 90 percent white turning on Western Illinois’s first black leader are inescapable. Those tensions ratcheted up a couple of weeks ago, when emails were made public in which an emeritus professor speculated to a trustee that their efforts to remove Thomas might be complicated by people of color on the university’s governing board.

“My fear is that the Jack predicament cannot easily be separated from race,” Larry Balsamo, an emeritus professor of history who specializes in the Civil War and Reconstruction, wrote to Jackie Thompson, a trustee, on May 7. (Balsamo and Thompson are both white.)

Among the board’s eight members, Balsamo speculated, two African-Americans and the chairman, who is Hispanic, “will be at least skeptical about any immediate move on Jack and they may be supported by some in the governor’s office and certainly some in the legislature. I agree that he needs to go very soon, and there are numbers of people in town and on campus who now agree.”

“I know certainly that some of the opposition to Jack is racist,” Balsamo continued, “but even if he were purple he has been a near total failure here.”

In another email, Balsamo speculated that Thomas had held on to the job as long as he has only because he is black.

“Race hangs over this whole situation,” the professor wrote, “but I have the feeling that if Jack were white or even Asian he would have been gone some time ago.”

Thompson, who did not comment directly on race in her email replies, told Balsamo that she hoped to “restore WIU to the days we remember so well.”

Thompson joined the university, in 1970, in a clerical role, working her way up to become vice president for administrative services, a position from which she retired in 2011. She was appointed in March to the board, whose entire membership has recently turned over due to resignations and expired terms.

Balsamo declined an interview request, and Thompson did not respond to an email seeking comment. President Thomas also declined an interview.

The emails between Thompson and Balsamo were leaked to The McDonough County Voice, a local newspaper, by Lyneir Cole, a former trustee who has described the “plot” to fire the president as racially motivated. (Cole provided the emails to The Chronicle, but declined to say how he had obtained them.)

Cole, who is black, said that the town’s highly personalized campaign to force out Thomas smacks of the racial prejudice he says he observed as a Western Illinois student in the 1980s.

“Macomb has now revealed itself to a whole lot of people,” Cole told The Chronicle in an interview. “They just knocked Macomb back 30 years.”

Some at the university, however, worry that the specter of racism has overshadowed valid criticism of Thomas’s tenure at Western Illinois, which has been in free fall for years. Since he took the helm, the university’s enrollment has dropped by 3,600 full-time students, or about 35 percent, according to university data.

Faculty Discontent

It was late at night, in August 1900, when news of Macomb’s selection as the site of a new normal school arrived via telegram. The decision was celebrated with cannon fire and the ringing of bells, according to historical accounts.

The fortunes of the town and the prosperity of Western Illinois University, which grew out of the normal school, are intimately linked. It’s of little surprise, therefore, that the precipitous enrollment declines have gotten people’s attention.

When people say, “as Western goes, so goes Macomb,” they mean it.

Michael J. Inman, Macomb’s mayor, said he’d seen businesses close and sales-tax receipts decline over the past five years. It’s worrisome.

“This has been something that’s been occurring since around 2010, and it’s culminated in a loss of over 4,000 students,” Inman said. “That’s a significant amount.

“If we talk about it strictly from an economic-development standpoint,” he continued, “we’re talking about 1,800 to 2,000 jobs.”

Inman described dwindling numbers of high-school graduates and rising competition as reasons for Western Illinois’s difficulty. He declined to comment in any detail on Thomas’s performance but said he did not support the publicity campaigns calling for Thomas’s removal.

“I understand there’s frustration,” Inman said. “I get that. But that’s not the way we do business here in Macomb.”

On campus, people fear for their jobs and the fate of academic programs. There have been three rounds of layoffs in recent years, claiming the jobs of nearly 300 people, including 24 professors who were either tenured or on the tenure track. Several of the layoffs have since been rescinded, and nearly 100 employees found other jobs at Western Illinois, university officials said.

In 2018 the faculty voted no confidence in the university’s administration.

In April the Senate released an evaluation of the president that found that nearly 70 percent of respondents strongly disagreed with the statement that Thomas is “highly effective” in his overall performance. In written comments, professors criticized the president for a lack of vision, a lack of transparency, and a decision to lay off faculty members without exploring alternatives.

Christopher Pynes, chair of the Faculty Senate, said it was time for a new president at Western Illinois.

“When an organization is failing, whether it’s your fault or systemic, it’s in the institution’s best interest for there to be a leadership change,” he said.

William A. Thompson, president of Western Illinois’s chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois, a union that represents faculty members, said he hopes that the institution’s newly constituted board will look with fresh eyes at Thomas’s performance.

“They haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid yet,” Thompson said. “That’s the single largest difference; the other board acted like dancing poodles.”

“The union believes everybody ought to have a fair hearing,” said Thompson, who is not related to Jackie Thompson, the trustee, “and we have had well-documented differences about the leadership that has been provided by the current president.”

Some of the more recent criticism of Thomas stems from his decision last month to fire Brad Bainter, the university’s vice president for advancement and public service. In a news release, Thomas described the decision as part of a reorganization aimed at cost cutting and efficiency.

Last week the leaders of the university’s independent foundation, who disagreed with Bainter’s termination, took the rare step of calling on the Board of Trustees to oust Thomas at its next meeting, the Quad-City Times reported.

The university’s alumni council followed suit.

At a university where many say they want the president gone, Thomas has tried to deliver that. He was a candidate for the top jobs at Boise State and Tuskegee Universities, but neither hired him.
I call BS. As someone who has spent their whole life in Macomb, I can tell you the race card is hogwash. I'm sure there is culture shock for someone who comes in from a metro area; but I'm also sure that growing up we ALL went to school together, hung out together, and respected each other. We were all just small town kids growing up in a pretty darn good time and place to be growing up.
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Neckerchief
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I call BS.
I'd be willing to bet that this reporter lives on the east coast, has never been to Macomb, and researched his story mostly on the internet along with a few phone calls.

He's obviously trying to play up the racism angle for a nationwide audience.

It's interesting that Thomas served three years as provost and eight years as president before Macomb suddenly became "racist".
wiu712
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Some Decry Alumni Council Call for WIU President’s Departure.
From "Diverse Issues in Higher Education":
https://diverseeducation.com/article/147693/
HoosierNeck13
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I can't believe the race card is coming out. Would we hearing the same thing if this was a woman? President Thomas had 8 years and other state universities are doing better, despite budget issues.

A change in leadership is needed.
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sealhall74
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Eight is Enough. Actually, it should have been done sooner but he had those "Dancing Poodles" well trained to obey his hand and voice signals. :lol:

Update: Good memories about Eight is Enough. Had a huge crush on Joannie (Laurie Walters). ;)
If Jimmy V was a programmer like me, he would have said it like this: while (!(succeed = try()));
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Western_101
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Neckerchief wrote:
Wed Jun 12, 2019 5:34 pm
I call BS.
I'd be willing to bet that this reporter lives on the east coast, has never been to Macomb, and researched his story mostly on the internet along with a few phone calls.

He's obviously trying to play up the racism angle for a nationwide audience.

It's interesting that Thomas served three years as provost and eight years as president before Macomb suddenly became "racist".
Are you living in a cave, drunk, or high? perhaps all of the above. Listen leatherneck friend. Under Jack's leadership WIU is going out of business. I will grant you that the University has been bent over by the State. However at some point in any private sector if there is this much failing going on (and it is a lot of failing) something different would have been tried like five years ago.

I don't give a flying fu*k what any persons' ethnicity is. We are all different. That is a big part of going to college and growing as a person when we were young.

Bradley messed up BBBBBBBBBBBBBBIG time and hired Joanne Glasser. They call it the "Lost Decade" at Bradley. However they finally fired her OMG and to think she was a woman, how could they have done that to a non white male. Turns out failing and winning is a universal thing.

The point is, that under Jack Thomas' leadership tenure things have grown from bad to worse. Maybe some or a lot of it is not his fault. What I do know Is what is going on now and for the last decade is not working.

I wont be bashful, Jack Thomas interviews for other positions at other Universities? They turn him down. Obviously he wants out. Obviously he knows he's not wanted (apparently anywhere) but yet here he is still at WIU. I can tell you what would happen to me if my employer knew that I interviewed for a new job at multiple different companies it would likely end in my termination.

-Jack doesn't want to be here
-We don't want him here (well accept for one poster)

You know what is Racist? being an under performing person and doing a shit*y job and us having a conversation about the color of this man's skin and that he should forever have immunity from scrutiny. Forgive me for being selfish. I want WIU to prosper. I want the best human being that we can find to "right the ship".

Long ago some Americans enslaved "black people". Long ago some Americans committed Genocide and virtually wiped out the Native American population.......These are sad but true facts about our history as a Country and as people. However......

If this was Caucasian there is no doubt in my mind this person would have been gone five years ago.

Talk to me some more about this racism fantasy.
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Western_101
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Neckercheif, I think I misinterpreted your tone and obvious satire. I guess I am just tired and irritable about this whole matter.


Feel free to delete my post Scott or maybe it will fire people up....Haha. I think everyone here knows the real deal.

Again, I think I misinterpreted the tone/snark of Neckercheif's post.
rocki
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RedNeck wrote:
Thu Jun 13, 2019 9:05 am
Neckercheif, I think I misinterpreted your tone and obvious satire. I guess I am just tired and irritable about this whole matter.


Feel free to delete my post Scott or maybe it will fire people up....Haha. I think everyone here knows the real deal.

Again, I think I misinterpreted the tone/snark of Neckercheif's post.
Lighten up, Francis. :lol: :lol: ;)
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Neckfansince71
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You know, what people need to understand is that WIU and Macomb walk hand in hand. It’s not like UIS where the school is just an add on, or UIC in the middle of the westside of Chicago. If dirty laundry is aired in either of these cases it’s a thing, but not a huge thing, but in Macomb it's different. And sometimes it’s the fact that change can be good. I think everyone who has ever been a leader for a long time gets to the point where there is nothing left in their playbook. Of course, surrounding yourself with thoughtful people who are not afraid to suggest change is always a good thing too. Everyone can verbally sign on to something that makes sense, is well thought out, and is positive look to the future. There are many stake holders in this case. Faculty senate, faculty union, staff, president, administration, alumni, friends, students, Macomb residents/mayor are all involved and their buy-in and support is necessary if WIU is going to move in the right direction. But WIU/Macomb are married together for better or for worse, and it seems like that relationship has gotten Rocky to say the least. In the end, it’s not about individuals, but about a university community. I was happy to see people finally “shouting” how important and great WIU is. I am just hoping that the decisions that are made in the very near future are for the good of our alma mater, period!! ;) jc
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