Senate: Academics always first with Ron Guenther
Vice President and interim Chancellor Bob Easter told members of the Senate Executive Committee Monday the search for a new UI athletics director won’t last long.
Ron Guenther, athletics director for 19 years, announced earlier in the day he would be retiring July 1.
Easter said the search committee is being led by Larry DeBrock, the dean of the College of Business, who also has served on the UI Athletic Board and chaired its Academic Progress and Eligibility Committee.
Easter said that committee could find Guenther’s replacement by next month.
“These things tend to move very quickly,” he said. “This is the time of the year when these kinds of positions roll over.”
Incoming SEC Chair Matt Wheeler, who presided over the meeting in Chair Joyce Tolliver’s absence, said Guenther’s replacement has a lot to live up to.
“Academics has always come first with him,” Wheeler said.
“They’re not just athletes, they’re also scholars,” Easter said. “This is not unanticipated, but it is a day of transition. Ron’s become an institution.”
Under Guenther’s leadership, the graduation rate for UI athletes is second in the Big Ten conference, trailing only Northwestern.
In other business, SEC members heard a report on the efforts of the Office of Prestigious Scholarships to increase student scholarship awareness and participation.
“We’ve been working hard in the last three years trying to build the program,” said Laura Hastings, a co-director of the office. “Illinois students do not come here with a scholarships mentality.”
She said the office had been trying to enlist department and unit leaders in an effort to reverse that mindset.
“We want to create a culture of scholarship seekers,” she said. “But we do need help with recruiting. We’d like to get to the freshmen early.”
The office is asking faculty members to nominate “high-achieving” students for scholarships and has asked campus units across campus for help in reaching them.
“It’s not a question of lack of talent, it’s a lack of information,” she said. “If you have a bright student, you know where to send them.”
SEC members also discussed whether the process of closing the Institute of Aviation should have gone through the Committee on General University Policy. The matter went instead through the Educational Policy Committee, whose recommendation to dissolve Aviation except for the master’s program was turned down in a full vote of the Senate.
“What is the process by which we consider these questions?” asked SEC member Sarah Projansky.
When it comes to the issue of unit closures in the future, “it might not be a bad idea to have GUP review it,” SEC member Mary Mallory said.
Student Senator David Olsen said having too much review would be inefficient.
SEC member Bill Maher said GUP has traditionally been reserved for more general campus governance questions and not specifically for discussion of single units.
“That’s a very large door in which you can drive an awful lot,” he said.