Last week, Dr. Bill Thompson wrote to the UPI Local 4100 membership, "The university is about to go through a third round of layoffs. The last round was only eight months ago. WIU remains in fiscal peril."
As we all know, any layoffs taking place now would be a repeated injury, after we have suffered through more than one previous devastating loss of human resources from our community and region.
There have been damaging losses in many departments across our educational institution. Academic departments in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences have been decimated or eliminated. These cuts have reduced the diversity of our workforce; for instance, women have been disproportionately affected by the layoffs, and any new losses would likely follow that trend.
WIU’s lifeblood is its employees. The people who serve this institution serve our students. Our students are our purpose, our body. As the lifeblood of this university continues to be drained by cut after cut, the body, our students, are affected.
Likewise, our town, county, and region are detrimentally affected by the draining of human capital from WIU.
Beyond those who have been dismissed as university employees, scores of additional friends and colleagues have left our University, our community, and in many cases, our state in favor of greater stability in positions elsewhere. The exodus of faculty and staff is very expensive. Its cost to this region is a loss of expertise, institutional knowledge, and the investment made by the University in these individuals. This loss leaves our region all the poorer.
What can you do? Beyond the things that you probably already know about – writing letters to university and state leaders, advocating for the institution in conversations with your friends and neighbors, supporting entities such as this radio station financially – you can join an ongoing effort to draw the new governor’s attention to WIU’s dire and emergent need for support.
UPI and other community groups have created a campaign titled, Buy into WIU , a petition drive asking Governor Pritzker for an emergency appropriation to stop and rescind layoffs of WIU employees. In the governor’s February 20th budget address, he announced a proposed 5% increase in funding to higher education institutions in our state. However, WIU’s state appropriated funds for fiscal year 2019-2020 are not yet a reality, and will not come soon enough for our community in any case.
In addition to the goal of additional state monies now, a second goal of the petition drive is to ask for a speedy appointment of a complete Board of Trustees. The Board is the governing body of our institution. A complete and engaged BOT is necessary to proper management of our university.
The petition states:
“. . . WIU remains an excellent institution with committed students and devoted employees and faculty. We are proud of our institution and would like to see it retain its distinctive role as strong regional comprehensive university.”
Everyone who cares about the tri-states region can agree that we need all need the state of Illinois to support WIU the way state universities should be supported. Now is not the time to watch and wait. We must remain persistent in our advocacy for our institution, for our region.
I cannot say it better than the wonderful Dr. Erin Taylor did in her March 2016 TSPR commentary:
“If you or someone you care about has received an education from Western, join us. If you rely on WIU or its students and employees for your livelihood, join us. If you look forward to tailgating in Q-lot before Leatherneck football games every fall, enjoying the Holiday Festival of Choirs each winter, or feasting on the cuisine at the International Bazaar each spring, join us. If you appreciate the college students who teach your children or grandchildren to swim at the YMCA, to play an instrument at the Community Music School, or to dance at one of the studios in town, join us.”
The new executive leadership of our state needs to feel the urgency we all feel.
We might feel tired, we might feel worn down by this protracted struggle and the dreary winter we are enduring. But we cannot stop. We have to continue to fight.
If you have not already signed the petition, please take a moment to go the link provided in the text of this commentary. Please sign the petition and share it widely.
Advocate for the tri-states region. Sign the Petition today.
Lora Ebert Wallace is a Professor of Sociology at Western Illinois University.
The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the university or Tri States Public Radio.
Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.