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ISU President Wants To Keep New Engineering College On Track, Despite Academic Senate Votes

Larry Dietz at news conference
Illinois State University
Illinois State University President Larry Dietz said he intends to seek authorization from the Board of Trustees for the new College of Engineering regardless of the March 24 votes.

Illinois State University’s president says he’s moving ahead with plans for a new engineering college, despite recent opposition in the Academic Senate.

The Academic Senate supported the new engineering college previously, as recently as early March when it approved its curriculum and fiscal plans. That changed March 24, however, when the Academic Senate voted narrowly against taking next steps. Several of those voting “no” cited ISU’s ongoing and contentious contract negotiations with its graduate workers union. Many wanted to show solidarity with the graduate students.

In an April 19 letter to the Academic Senate chair, ISU President Larry Dietz said he intends to seek authorization from the Board of Trustees for the new College of Engineering regardless of those March 24 votes.

“While understandable at some level, I believe that the votes cast in opposition to the engineering program are misguided,” Dietz wrote. “First, it conflates a short-term union labor concern with a long-term strategic imperative. This development is problematic for several reasons. A major and complex entity like Illinois State cannot be expected to do only one thing at a time.”

A new engineering program will help ISU meet workforce development needs, insulate the university against long-anticipated demographic declines in enrollment, strengthen efforts in internationalization, and create access to new students, Dietz said.

Dietz said he supports ISU’s long history of shared governance among faculty, students, and staff, in which the Academic Senate is the driving force.

But he said it would be “irresponsible and a dereliction of duty on my part if we fail to act to prepare Illinois State for future challenges that have long been predicted with high confidence.”

“I believe that this divergence of opinion is an aberration,” Dietz said.

There is no date set for when the engineering college may appear in front of the Board of Trustees. The board’s next regularly scheduled meeting is May 7.

In a statement on social media, the ISU Graduate Workers Union said Dietz was trying to “ignore the democratic will of the Academic Senate.”

“He clearly holds us all in deep contempt to so willingly dismiss our voices over and over,” the union said.

The contract negotiations are ongoing, with help from a federal mediator.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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