Worried About Loss of Academic Influence, CIO Resigns at Urbana-Champaign

Sally Jackson

Sally Jackson

Rather than report to the state university system’s office instead of her own campus provost, the CIO of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has resigned. The issue was concern that the new structure would lead to better technology for administrators but worse service for academics, reports The News-Gazette.

“What’s important here is that the reporting line to the academic leadership has been broken,” Ms. Jackson told the local newspaper. “Once you isolate authority in a vertical silo, eventually academic influence disappears and technical values take over.”

The Illinois system has just announced that Ms. Jackson, as well as the CIO’s on the Chicago and Springfield campuses, would report to a new “executive CIO” in the system office. That is Michael Hites, associate vice president for administrative information-technology services, who in turn reports to the chief financial officer. Ms. Jackson had previously reported to the provost at Urbana-Champaign.

Working for nonacademic officials is not unusual. In a survey of CIO’s from about 500 colleges, the 2010 Campus Computing Project says that while 26.9 percent of them worked for provosts, 35 percent reported to  presidents, and 31.4 percent reported to chief financial officers.

But the major concern in this case, the News-Gazette says, is the move from local control to system control.  The state system came up with the plan as part of an administrative-restructuring process, which concluded that the university could save $18-million in information-technology expenses by streamlining. Mr. Hites said it made sense to centralize a number of IT services, such as human resources and financial systems. He also said the campus CIO’s would continue to support campus academics, with no change in their authority.

Ms. Jackson, although she resigned her CIO job, will continue on Illinois’s flagship campus as a professor of speech communication and as associate provost.

[Image courtesy UIUC]

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