First meeting for vitalization task force set

Cassie Buchman, News Editor

After being notified Tuesday they are now a part of vitalization project workgroups, the entire Task Force will meet 3 p.m. today in the Doudna Fine Arts Center Lecture Hall.

Anyone who is interested in learning more about the project can attend.

The project will consist of nine workgroups that will analyze programs and services on campus on their viability, efficiency and sustainability, then make recommendations for how the administration should allocate future resources and how they will fund targeted investments.

Workgroups one through six will analyze the efficiencies, viability and sustainability of existing services and programs.

Workgroup seven will assess the viability and sustainability of Eastern’s academic undergraduate and graduate programs.

The goal of workgroups eight and nine is to envision new ideas for academic affairs.

Biology professor Billy Hung was notified Tuesday that he will be a part of workgroup two, which deals with University Technology.

When working with the group, Hung plans to start hearing departmental challenges and their input when it comes to technology.

“When you talk about efficiency without any money, the default is to cut things, so I think that’s the type of things workgroups should look hard at, to be really thoughtful about what can be done before we have to cut,” Hung said.

He added that things need to be explored without talking about cutting things, such as finding new majors that would not require additional staff by shifting some workloads.

These options will still come with a cost, such as larger class sizes, Hung said.

“Some concessions have to be made, but we should make them with a clear focus on what’s important to our students,” Hung said.

Though it can be easy to be angry and cynical with how Springfield is treating Eastern and the events of the past year, the university cannot be tied down by what it is doing, Hung said.

“We need to find a way to prepare ourselves, position our school, advertise our strengths, develop more strengths, make our mark in the market as a university,” Hung said.

This will be challenging without the resources from the state, Hung said, making the campus understandably nervous.

History professor Mark Hubbard said it is always good for an institution like Eastern to evaluate what they are doing and how they are doing it to find ways they could improve.

“Attracting more students and delivering real value to the citizens of Illinois,” he said. “As a state institution that’s really what we need to be thinking about.”

What Hubbard wants the workgroups to value is a comprehensive liberal arts education, which he said means more than just dollars and sense.

“There is an uneasiness among some of my colleagues that in the rush to identify areas where we can reallocate resources or areas to cut to save money, there is a fear that the fundamental mission of public higher education could be compromised,” Hubbard said.

Part of the fear and anxiety stems from being in an age of financial austerity, Hubbard said, where the university can no longer count on a certain level of funding.

Hubbard said the university’s mission goes beyond just giving students a credential to get a job with, and a comprehensive education gives them the knowledge and perspective they need.

“(We need to teach them about) being well-educated citizens, who can make the right decisions about the direction of the country,” Hubbard said. “This requires more than preparing them for a lucrative job at the end of the day. It requires educating them on the history of their nation, the history of their state and so on.”

Hubbard said the workgroups should keep in mind the value of educating students over just thinking about the monetary aspect.

“That aspect of what we do as a university can’t be compromised in this vitalization program,” Hubbard said.

In an interview with The Daily Eastern News last week, Eastern President David Glassman said also higher education is different from a business as in a business, the person in charge would cut a program if it was losing money.

In a university, Glassman said, it is understood that some programs are not going to generate funds that are greater than their expenses.

“Some programs do not, it’s fine,” Glassman said. “(We are) a university with a mission to educate students broadly, and to do that we will have programs that might not make money.”

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].