Student services workgroup talks reorganizations

Cassie Buchman, News Editor

Editor’s Note: This article has been edited to clarify comments made by interim director Eric Davidson 

Workgroup No.1, focusing on student services, talked about potential recommendations, including the reorganization of different student services areas, at their meeting Wednesday.

Workgroup chair Rick Roberts, department chair of counseling and student development, said the workgroup are making their recommendations on what the administration should explore based on the four areas they were asked to cover.

“Everything could be somewhat controversial, hopefully it’s helpful,” Roberts said.

Workgroup No.1 acknowledged that all student services are working within their means with a reduced staff.

One of the stronger recommendations the workgroup has is reorganizing the student services into five areas: student wellness, student safety, student support, student housing and student engagement.

Roberts said the group would suggest the five areas report to the director of that area, who would then report to the vice president of student affairs.

What the group is recommending is that the university try to coalesce these areas to make them more coherent to students, Roberts said.

Roberts said they do not know if new people would have to be hired until all the personnel were looked at.

“It’s something the vice presidents have to look at more,” Roberts said.

The group said this would help with efficiency.

“Right now there’s feedback from all over place; we need to figure out a way to centralize it,” Roberts said.

Also suggested for reorganization was moving new student programs to the admissions office and the exploration of reclassifying Academic Support Personnel positions to Administrative and Professional status.

Heidi Hawkins, assistant university budget officer, said if this happened, the university would have to look at Eastern’s chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois’ contract to make sure they abide by the rules.

Roberts said this was just a recommendation the group was exploring.

“We would want the vice presidents to explore the use of academic support personnel in areas where it is possible to be reclassified,” Roberts said.

He said they would look at exactly what each one of the positions was doing to see if some of the duties were more suited for one classification or the other.

Areas the group thought could be explored more for outsourcing include dining and panther catering, though they said there are pros and cons to each of these options.

“We’re looking into costs, possibilities that these are the things that could be outsourced,” Hawkins said. “We’re not recommending to outsource areas; it could be explored.”

Peter Andrews, a mathematics and computer science professor, said he has a general bias against outsourcing, as the university would lose some control, though they would save money.

Outsourcing student insurance was another option the Workgroup looked into exploring for further research.

Eric Davidson, interim director of Health Service, said he could see there being advantages and disadvantages to outsourcing. Though he does not necessarily think student insurance should be outsourced, he recommended looking seriously at both sides.

“It’s a serious decision that needs exploration,” Davidson said.

While outsourcing might potentially save the university money, he said it would likely increase costs for students wanting student insurance.

 Roberts said the reason the group is not recommending anything else be outsourced is that every student service plays a vital role in retention and recruitment.

For areas that need increased resources, the group discussed suggesting in their recommendations that the administration invest more in career counseling, career coaches, filling positions in the University Police Department, a web marketing system to connect all the student services, and enhance literacy education for students with financial aid.


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