A View From the Cheap Seats

I have been honored to have several Southern Illinois University chancellors and, one, president as friends during my forty year affiliation with SIU.

Last week, I read with great interest the emails that have been made public regarding communications with the president of SIU and other university leaders.

Absent a cogent explanation from the university president…it appears that we have a leadership mess on our hands…and a Carbondale campus that can ill afford such a comedy of errors.

I admire SIU trustee, Joel Sambursky, for his courage in asking for a meeting of the executive council of the Board.  During my forty years…I have seldom witnessed such exemplary courage and commitment to truth telling by leadership.

When university leaders, ‘play’, with our beloved campus…it can be likened to disturbing our homes and families.

It is not funny, to us, for you to nickname our chancellor, ‘Rasputin’, or to speculate on a dismissive attitude to the needs of the Southern Illinois region by quickly pivoting to the needs of the Metro East region…which is comparing one of the poorest regions of our state with one of the wealthiest.

I have witnessed divisiveness and duplicity…many times during my career at SIUC…but what I read this past week shocked me.

I worked, behind the scenes, with SIU president, Glenn Poshard, on numerous occasions over many years.  I had a front row seat to witness president Poshard’s love for the entire university system.  I have been with Glenn…when he wept over the loss of employees to lay-off.

President Poshard began his career as a civil service employee in the Physical Plant.  He loved the working people of SIU.

For university leadership to have the caviler and condescending attitude for the Carbondale Campus…which is the flagship campus of the SIU System…is an offense that cuts to the bone of all who love SIUC.

I have been retired from my university for nearly eight years.  I am past knowing leaders personally…but I am still called upon by my former colleagues and friends for advice and consultation regarding pressing university matters.

I am humbled and honored that some from the civil service community still look to me for advice…and I told them to have confidence in some who, it appears, have misled us.  This saddens me…like I have not been in many years.

As I was fastening my, ‘old man velcro walking shoes’, near Anthony Hall…a few months ago…I looked up to see chancellor Montemagno standing in front of me and smiling.  We exchanged pleasantries and I was struck with how friendly and open that he was, with me, in view of the fact that we had never met.

As the chancellor walked away…I noticed that he had a pronounced limp and that he was walking slowly.  I was concerned regarding his health and observed him, graciously, stop a few feet from me and speak to another, senior person, like he had to me.


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