ACTA’s latest publication, “For the People: A Report Card on Public Higher Education in Illinois” has unearthed more of the usual disappointments. In a series of rankings, General Education requirements earned an F, with only three public universities (out of eight) indicating a foreign language requirement “and not a single institution received credit for Literature U.S. Government or History, or Economics.” Rankings for intellectual diversity also came out with an F. ACTA commissioned a research group to conduct a student survey, and the results were less than encouraging. 61% of students responded in the affirmative to the assertion that “some courses have readings that present only one side of a controversial issue.” In response to the proposal “some professors frequently comment on politics in my class even though it has nothing to do with the course” 38.6% of respondents agreed.
The most striking survey findings, however, came in the areas of Governance and Cost and Effectiveness. In many key areas, the boards of the University of Illinois System and the Southern Illinois University System (I didn’t know they were separate until now either) seem to be living up to all the traditional responsibilities of a rubber stamp.
Both systems garnered another set of Fs in these rankings. The ACTA report points out that there are no listings by which the public may contact trustees directly (as is possible in other states). Aside from a one-day session of meetings there are additionally no efforts to appraise the trustees of their responsibilities or provide them with outside advice. There seem to be few meaningful committees to assess significant criteria of university operation.
This isn’t your average well-meaning-but-myopic-university board – this, of course, is the board whose complete lack of oversight during the clout scandal prompted a special review commission appointed by the Illinois governor to recommend that all of its members resign. ACTA notes:
The report from the Admissions Review Committee stated that the trustees “have not collectively demonstrated an inclination to affirmatively seek out ethics or other training that could have at least heightened their sensitivity to the admissions-related issues raised here.” The report specifically called for the formation of an Ethics Committee “with the responsibility to develop and administer an orientation and training program that requires all Trustees to annually certify that they understand and will abide by applicable rules of conduct.” It is apparent that the current system for training and professional development needs to be reassessed and revamped.
And that’s not all. In the range of costs, trustees are faring little better, with in-state tuition and fees increasing by an average of 56 percent from 2002 to 2007, with “no campus increasing rates by less than 42 percent and two campuses increasing rates by more than 70 percent.” And for all of this only two institutions graduated more than 64 percent of their 2001 freshman class by 2007. ACTA’s report is a timely rejoinder indeed. Read the full thing.