NORMAL — A task force report on creating a multicultural center at Illinois State University is expected by the end of the school year and several spaces on campus are possible locations.
President Larry Dietz told the board of trustees at its meeting Friday that the task force has visited a multicultural center at an Indiana university and will be visiting other sites in Illinois and Wisconsin.
Still to be determined are what would go into such a center, what services would be provided, how much space would be needed and how much it would cost.
Using an existing area, even if it means having to remodel spaces, would allow the project to be completed more quickly and less expensively than building a new space, said Dietz. Once a location is agreed upon, the center could be opened in as little as six months, compared with three years to plan and build a new building, he said
Creation of a multicultural center has been under discussion informally for several years; the task force was named last fall.
“I know that I speak for the entire board and we not only support it, it's our expectation that a multicultural center will become a reality,” said board Chair Rocky Donahue, who said students reached out to him about the idea.
Dietz said after the meeting a multicultural center is a place where students can feel like they have an identity and can gather with people who share similar interests. He said it is a natural evolution of increased campus diversity.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker's proposed budget, which would provide $55.2 million in additional dollars for public universities and boost funding for the Monetary Award Program by $50 million, also was discussed.
Donahue said he was encouraged by the proposal and said it would begin to restore stability in Illinois higher education. However, he said it was still less than what the university received in fiscal year 2015.
“Money for higher education is an investment, not merely an expenditure,” said professor Susan Kalter, chair of the Academic Senate.
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Noting delays in capital funding for deferred maintenance and renovation projects, she added, “The longer we wait, the more the funds shrink in purchasing power.”
The budget isn't the only action from the governor's office that ISU officials are closely watching.
The terms of three board members — Donahue, Bob Churney and Mary Ann Louderback — expired in late January. They can continue to serve on the board for 60 days.
Donahue, who was initially appointed to the board in 2011 by then-Gov. Pat Quinn, said he is “proud of what we've done at Illinois State” but whether he remains on the board is “really the governor's decision.”
Churney also is a Quinn appointee and Louderback was appointed by then-Gov. Bruce Rauner.
In addition to the three board members whose terms expired, four other board members — all appointed or reappointed to six-year terms by Rauner two years ago — were never confirmed by the Senate. They can continue to serve unless the governor withdraws their names.
The eighth member of the board is the student trustee, who is named by students, not appointed by the governor.
“Our biggest concern is that a timely decision gets made,” said Dietz, so there is not a problem with having a quorum to do business.
He said other public universities are in similar situation.