SPRINGFIELD — A Senate panel approved legislation Wednesday to remake Southern Illinois University’s embattled governing board.
On a 9-4 vote, the Senate Executive Committee endorsed a plan aimed at removing acting board chairman Roger D. Herrin and the remaining three trustees.
State Sen. Bill Haine, who is sponsoring the proposal, wants to give Gov. Pat Quinn a clean slate to reconstitute the board, which has been at the center of a simmering controversy for more than a year.
Under his plan, three members must be graduates of SIU’s main Carbondale campus, while the three others must hold degrees from the Edwardsville campus, which Haine represents. The proposal also includes provisions to have each campus to pick one student member, who would have voting powers.
Currently, a governor does not have to abide by any guidelines regarding where a prospective trustee attended college.
While the Alton Democrat said the proposal would allow for better geographic representation on the board, he said the main reason he is targeting the board is Herrin, who was appointed by Quinn and has since locked horns with SIU President Glenn Poshard.
Wednesday’s committee action came just days after the Democrat-controlled Senate reacted harshly to Quinn’s attempt to remake the board by replacing trustees John Simmons of East Alton, Mark Hinrichs of O’Fallon and Ed Hightower of Edwardsville, who had led a coup in 2011 to oust Quinn’s pick for board chairman, Roger Herrin of Harrisburg.
The Senate voted 23-0 in opposition to Sandra Cook of Collinsville, Melvin Terrell of Chicago and Lee Milner of Springfield. Thirty-two senators voted “present.”
The move left the SIU board unable to meet last week because it did not have enough members to conduct business.
“The struggle over the chairman’s position has become unseemly,” Haine told his Senate colleagues Wednesday. “If I could carve him (Herrin) out, I would do it. I don’t have any quarrel with any other member of the board.”
State Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, who represents the Carbondale campus, said the dispute has become a distraction for the university.
“It’s ugly. It’s certainly not good for the university,” Luechtefeld said. “This is a pretty drastic step.”
Luechtefeld voted “present” on the proposal, as did state Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago.
“It’s a cat fight. I just think we’re pouring salt on the wound here,” Silverstein said.
The measure now goes to the full Senate for further consideration.
The legislation is Senate Bill 202.
Contact Erickson at email@example.com or 217-782-4043.