July 30, 2013

APAC Representatives Meet With President Easter

APAC members and other employee leaders met with President Robert Easter.
By Susan S. Stevens

MICHAEL MOSS, APAC chairman, and two other APAC representatives came away from their most recent meeting with University President Robert A. Easter expressing optimism with his take on University issues.

“IT WENT pretty well,” Moss said. The meeting lasted about one hour, and it was “high level,” he added. APAC Vice Chair Ahlam Al-Kodmany reported, “It was nice to see President Easter’s understanding and empathy.” Marelet Kirda, an APAC Senator, said, “It’s definitely a great opportunity to hear the President’s perspective.”

THE THREE APAC members were joined in the meeting at the President’s house in Urbana by representatives of the Urbana and Springfield campuses who are on the University Professional Personnel Advisory Committee (UPPAC). The June 11 meeting came toward the end of Easter’s first year as U of I President, and the session won’t be the last, the three APAC members said.

THE UNIVERSITY’S increasing dependence on tuition to fund its operations was a recurrent theme, Kirda said. Easter said that the American people at some point will say, “that’s enough,” and look at other ways of funding universities. Since time was short, they did not get into a lot of specifics, Moss said.

PENSION PLANNING drew further talk. Easter is “front and center,” working on it, Al-Kodmany said. Easter said he is working in collaboration with leadership from other State Universities to push a pension plan developed by the Institute of Government Affairs to the “attention” of State legislators. Lawmakers are looking at it, Al-Kodmany added. “This is clearly a president who has rolled up his sleeves.”

IMPROVING ON efficiencies is a goal of the President’s, Al-Kodmany noted. For example, Easter asked why seven or eight signatures need to be on a contract before it gets to him. He is “clearly not a bureaucrat,” she added.

UNIVERSITY-BUSINESS partnerships were another focus. Easter wants to build more ties to businesses, along with increasing endowments and investments, to better fund University programs and support students, Kirda said. UI LABS is an example of the kind of partnerships that can be developed, she said. UI LABS is a pathway to obtain hundreds of millions of dollars in private and government funding that wouldn’t otherwise be available for Universities to pursue.

HE UNDERSTOOD that Academic Professional staff should be recognized as major contributors to the University’s mission, although he conceded the work of Academic Professionals is not discussed often enough in public, Al-Kodmany said. “We are the foundation” for faculty and student retention and promotion, she said. “It was like a light bulb that went on when we talked about that.”  He said, ‘You are absolutely correct.’”

SOMETIMES INDIVIDUALS at high levels are “too politicized,” Al-Kodmany said, noting that “Their responses have no depth”—but that is not the sense she got during the meeting with Easter. “He was listening.” Moss agreed. “He has a level of understanding of the University that is very unique.”

FURTHER MEETINGS will be scheduled, probably twice a year, Moss said. Easter is committed to “continuing that engagement” with UPPAC. Kirda added that APAC also appreciates the opportunities afforded to the group to meet with the Chancellor and Provost a couple of times throughout the year.

ALL THREE APAC members believe the U of I is the better for Easter’s time at the helm. Easter has agreed to stay on board for two-and-a-half more years until June 30, 2015, when he will be 67 years old. “Easter has provided strong leadership during challenging times – we will definitely be sad to see him go,” Moss said.

WHEN THE U of I Board of Trustees approved Easter as president in March 2012, he was asked to serve until June 2014. A new agreement has extended his tenure by a year.

“THERE IS a consensus, and this is not just on the board but throughout the institution, on campuses and among external audiences, that this first year has gone very well indeed," said U of I spokesman Tom Hardy.

FOR MORE about U of I private-public partnerships, log on to:
http://research.uillinois.edu/innovation-infrastructure/interdisciplinary-research/ui-labs-future-today. For University administration reviews and a message from President Easter, log on to: http://www.uillinois.edu/uareview/. For Springfield News-Gazette coverage of Easter’s contract extension, log on to http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2013-07-19/easter-contract-be-extended-year.html.

1 comment:

  1. It is alarming to see President Easter praised for advocating for a pension 'reform' which would leave every University of Illinois employee and retiree significantly worse off than they would be if the state were to honor its contractual obligation and keep the present pension plan in place.

    Easter's actions make it clear that he sees the University as having interests which diverge quite drastically from those of its employees; not surprisingly, perhaps, he is advocating for the University (and thus, reluctantly no doubt, against the employees). But why does APAC see this as a step for which he should be praised?