New UI president: fight cuts by making case for public investment
Timothy Killeen, new president of the University of Illinois, sounded a note of optimism about the university’s finances in remarks Tuesday at UIC.
Yes, the state is talking about a 31.5 percent cut, amounting to $209 million, which Killeen said “would create significant damage to the university.”
But that figure is not set in stone, “and I don’t think we’re going to see anything like the worst scenario,” he said. “We’re working hard to make the case for public investment.”
Killeen spoke at a town hall meeting in Student Center East where he shared the stage with the university’s three chancellors: Michael Amiridis from UIC, Phyllis Wise from the Urbana-Champaign campus and Susan Koch from Springfield.
The three have been traveling the state in a van this week with Killeen, who became president Monday. “I feel like a teenager who’s just been given his driver’s license,” he said of his first two days on the job.
He had praise for the man he’s replacing, former president Bob Easter, saying, “I can’t begin to replace his body of experience and expertise.”
But Killeen said he’s been doing his homework since his appointment was announced Nov. 19, thinking about his vision for the university. It has to do with building the nation’s economy, advancing its culture and lifting its society by educating our young people, he said.
“We must continue to grow and develop, not just to be the very best, but to be the model for higher education in the 21st century,” Killeen said.
Each of the chancellors also had something to say at the town hall.
Amiridis promised that “everything we do in terms of research, scholarship and creative achievement will continue to improve.”
Koch noted that two UIS graduates won Pulitzer Prizes this year. UIS is the home of the Illinois Innocence Project; each prisoner freed represents the involvement of 20 students, she said.
Wise told Killeen that under his leadership, the U of I “has the opportunity to redefine what a state university really is.”
“The university deserves a seat at every table,” Wise said.
At the following Q & A session, several audience members brought up issues related to undocumented students.
One student said he had applied to become a student trustee but was rejected because he lacked a voter registration card. Killeen responded, “There are some statutes that need to be changed,” and Amiridis said he’s working on the issue with Latino leadership at UIC.
The new president was asked if his first days in office had produced any surprises. He cited the “loyalty of the stakeholder base … and the open door [at the General Assembly] in Springfield.”
Killeen praised UIC as “the only land-grant university in a world city on the planet” and lauded its students as “so grounded, so articulate, so passionate.”