WIUM Tristates Public Radio

WIU Striving to Hold In-Person Classes This Fall

May 8, 2020

Dr. Martin Abraham, interim president of Western Illinois University, told the Board of Trustees (BoT) during its May 6 meeting that his goal is to hold classes on campus in the fall.

But he also cautioned that the fall semester will likely look different this year than it did last year due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

“We will have limitations and we will have restrictions. I cannot tell you today exactly what those will be, nor can I describe exactly how we will be adapting to those requirements,” Abraham said.

He said the university’s staff will work throughout the summer to develop plans for keeping students and employees safe. He said those plans will be based on guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the federal government, and input from various campus constituencies.

The Presidential Search

BoT Chairperson Polly Radosh said trustees will not reconsider their decision to conduct a presidential search.

She pointed out the board in December deadlocked (4-4) on a motion to appoint Abraham as Western’s 12th president, then voted unanimously to conduct a search.

Radosh said trustees are now hearing from many people who feel times have changed since then and that the board should appoint Abraham.

“Agreed. Times have changed. But unanimous votes matter. Process matters,” said Radosh. She said the board remains committed to a process that provides access, opportunity, and a diversity of candidates.

The board in December approved spending up to $250,000 on the search. During the May 6 meeting, trustees agreed to hire a search firm to assist with the process. Greenwood/Asher & Associates will charge the university the equivalent of one-third of the new president’s first year salary, plus expenses. The salary has not been set.  

Trustees also agreed to negotiate with Abraham on a contract that allows him to continue in an interim capacity until either he or someone else takes over as president.

Enrollment Update

Interim President Abraham said the numbers are trending in a positive direction. He said housing applications for new freshmen are up nearly 15%. He said registrations for new freshmen and transfer students are up by a similar figure.

“All of this data would have us incredibly excited if we didn’t recognize the continuing challenges that COVID-19 presents to our predictability,” Abraham said. But he added it is better to be in this position than to be facing a decrease.

He said the university’s enrollment management staff deserves credit for the increases.

BoT Chairperson Radosh called the figures “a bright hopeful sign.” 

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