The UIS Community

A new kind of conversation addressing issues that UIS students and staff care about.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Recognizing great citizens

Eleven "First Citizens" of Springfield -- named over the years by the Springfield State Journal-Register, gathered at UIS on December 14, 2013, to reminisce and celebrate our city. They also enjoyed a couple of UIS basketball games in The Recreation and Athletic Center.

From left are five who helped with the day: Kim Pate, UIS Director of Athletics; Bob Heisse, SJR editor; Michael Houston, mayor; Susan Koch, UIS chancellor; and President Abraham Lincoln.

First Citizens on hand were, to Lincoln's left, Wes Barr, Guerry Suggs, Barb Dickerman, Ann Dondanville, Wally Henderson (this year's winner), Mary Loken, Bill Schnirring, Paul O’Shea, Butch Elzea, Bob Gray, and Rudy Davenport with his wife.

Chancellor Koch was on the selection committee this year for the designation that is recognized as one of the highest honors in the city of Springfield.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Why the Springfield Urban League matters

It would surprise people to know the Springfield Urban League is the sixth largest Urban League in the U.S. -- an awesome stat in small city like ours.

Everybody knows that early childhood education is critical. Our school systems mostly don't recognize that, but Early Head Start and Head Start do. And in Springfield, it's the Urban League that runs these programs for more than 600 children in our community. It's mostly under the radar, except for these hundreds of children and their families who get an early start on education every year.

I am just completing two years as SUL's board chair, a job made rather easy because of one of Springfield's most extraordinary leaders, Nina Harris, president and CEO. She is soft-spoken and chooses not to be highly visible. She's just effective and leaves it at that. She's a great example of what Jim Collins says in Good to Great about a Level 5 leader -- what the Harvard Business Review calls "the triumph of humility and fierce resolve."

Nina is a UIS alum, and the Urban League always seems to have UIS students as interns and other alumni on its staff, and that's a plus for our students and the Urban League, which has a great motto: "Empowering Communities. Changing Lives." Exactly.

Nina Harris and Ed Wojcicki
Here I am with Nina Harris at the Springfield Urban League's 87th annual awards dinner on Dec. 6, 2013.

And here I am with UIS students (from left) Robyn Crutchfield, Dominique Wilson and Grace Latimore, after the dinner. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Vote on pension bill this week?

U of I President Bob Easter sent a letter to all employees the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, when changes in our pension plan were under consideration. Here is a portion of his letter, which is worth repeating:

Dear Colleagues,

As we enter a season of Thanksgiving and holiday cheer, it gives me no pleasure to update you on what are expected to be proposed changes in the state’s public pension systems that the Illinois General Assembly may consider when it meets next week.

Although a conference committee and the legislative leaders have played it close to the vest in closed-door meetings on how to address the state’s pension funding crisis, information from reliable sources indicates the package that may emerge in Springfield on Dec. 3 would be onerous for public employees, including those of us at the University of Illinois. The proposals, which have not been publicly issued in the form of a bill lawmakers will be asked to consider, would affect current employees and retirees and would be effective July 1, 2014.

Among the anticipated changes to be considered are these:

C.O.L.A.—The automatic, compounded annual 3 percent increase in retirement annuities would be replaced by an annual increase equal to one-half of the increase in the consumer price index, but shall be no less than 1 percent and shall not be greater than 4 percent (a cap in the event of high inflation). Automatic annual increases received prior to the expected July 1, 2014, effective date of the legislation would not be diminished. For employees not yet retired, the C.O.L.A. would be increased biennially for a period of time based on age.

Pensionable earnings limitations—A cap would be placed on pensionable earnings based on the Social Security wage limit, and those currently receiving earnings in excess of that amount would have their pensionable earnings limited to essentially their current salary. In other words, for them future salary increases would not be counted toward pensionable earnings. For employees covered by collective bargaining agreements, the pensionable earnings limit would be applied based on the next collective agreement after the new pension law takes effect.

 Other provisions expected to emerge next week include: a reduction in employee contributions for Tier I participants by 1 percent of earnings; a reduction of the “effective rate of interest,” used for money purchase calculations; and a stronger legal requirements that the state adhere to a funding schedule to eliminate the unfunded pension liability within 30 years.  ...