I walk the Campus of Southern Illinois University, daily.
I was there at the height of the student enrollment. Almost 25,000 students were in attendance and between classes it was difficult to walk down the campus sidewalks.
University Housing was placing three students in two student dormitory rooms and this meant crowding in another twin bed and a small desk for study.
I worked second and third shifts and at anytime of the evening or night I could see students jogging across campus.
Building Services, the housekeeping department of which I was the Assistant Superintendent, had 160 full time staff and over two hundred student staff.
Today, I am told, that Building Services has under 60 full time staff.
SIU has a vibrant and rich tradition that has been formed for nearly 150 years.
Many of our academic programs are leaders in the nation and recognized throughout the world.
For over the past 20 years we have spent an inordinate amount of time contemplating our own mirrored visage and trying to determine what manner of woman or man that we are.
I knew a chancellor who wanted us to attain greatness by our 150th birthday. Many of the challenges in Southern @ 150 were noble…and some were attainable.
We lost nearly 1,000 students in more than one year of this man’s five year tenure.
I knew another chancellor who was sure that a new university logo and a revitalized look for the central campus…was the answer.
The outside consultants for the new logo…were worth a million dollars per year…for at least three of this woman’s five year tenure.
We purchased new I Pad type tablets for the entire freshman class, for at least two years of this chancellor’s reign.
After her departure the interim chancellor told the civil service council that one of the first problems that he had to wrestle with was how to pay for the Tablets as there was no money for them in the Budget.
Over 2,000 students were lost during her chancellorship.
I have heard several chancellor’s tell our university community that they were in it for the long haul and that they were not going anywhere…and they are gone…and our enrollment is at an all time low.
If we are not careful we can be looked upon as if we are a bit rural and quaint and in need of a savior.
When the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred, ‘A day that shall live in infamy’, our nation was focused, like a laser beam, on our one goal…wining the war. All able bodied men enlisted and all women went to the factories to make war armaments.
The home front had victory gardens and ration tickets and blood drives and everyone was immersed in the paramount goal, for the survival of the United States.
Former President Roosevelt inherited a country in the midst of the Great Depression. People were standing in soup lines and bread lines and working for a nickel or a dime a day.
President Roosevelt knew that the first thing that he had to do was put the United States back to work…and that is what he did. Focusing on infrastructure the WPA and other Depression Era Programs caused our nation to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Our university has one need that is the zenith of it’s concerns…to the exclusion of all others…increase enrollment.
One of the most full proof solutions to understanding what is needed to achieve the number one goal of increasing enrollment is to listen to the customers of the university…our students.
‘Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.’ Proverbs 16:18 KJV
There is no room for pride in the solving of the critical problem of enrollment at our university.
SIU is a proponent of a rigid flow chart for leadership. Often this type of authority and responsibility model has the ability to break-down at any level that a middle manager or administrator is unwilling or unable to share ideas of their subordinates. This often happens, at the university, for petty reasons.
I sat at the Constituency Heads Table at the monthly Board of Trustees Meetings for five years. The Table is positioned in front of the BOT and before the audience seating. There is a microphone at each seat for the purpose of the elected Constituency Heads to address the BOT…at each meeting…if needed.
I have noticed, of late, that the Constituency Heads, must now place their names on a sheet of potential public comments before the BOT and that they can be denied to speak or their time allotment reduced at the pleasure of the chair of the BOT.
Why the special Constituency Head Table and why the microphones…if the elected spokes’ people for the; Faculty Senate and the Graduate Council and the Administrative and Professional Council and the Civil Service Council and other groups…have no particular right to address the BOT on behalf of thousands of members of the university community that they have been elected to represent?
When I was the president of the Civil Service Council…I met with the chancellor on a monthly basis. I was a first hand witness to a chancellor being terminated and one of the reasons for termination was that he had ceased to meet with individual Constituency Heads on a monthly basis.
Ideas regarding increasing enrollment will not percolate to the top…if there is no forum to be heard.
So often, in life and business, we want to devise a new and unique plan to solve a problem that has its’ solution before our face.
SIU is the possessor of greatness and human dedication and potential that is extraordinary…not ordinary.
The sleeping tiger…must be awakened!