Professors at Illinois colleges and universities spoke out this week in interviews with The News-Gazette against Gov. Bruce V. Rauner’s nominee to the faculty seat on the Illinois Board of Higher Education.
Mr. Rauner, a Republican who took office in 2015 and has made a name for himself by slashing state funds to higher education, nominated John Bambenek, a part-time lecturer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and onetime Republican candidate for the State Senate, on April 15. Some faculty members say Mr. Bambenek, a small-business owner and cybersecurity expert who has taught one course a year at the university since 2013, does not adequately represent them, according to the newspaper.
“He’s representing all universities in the state. Other universities are even more up in arms about this than we are,” said Nicholas C. Burbules, a professor of educational-policy studies on the Urbana-Champaign campus. Mr. Burbules plans to draft a letter on behalf of the campus’s Senate Executive Committee, of which he is a member, to the State Senate’s Executive Appointments Committee, which will now review the nomination. The letter will express the campus panel’s disappointment in the governor’s choice.
“No. 1, he’s not a faculty member. That has not been his livelihood,” Marie Donovan, an associate professor of education at DePaul University and chair of the board’s Faculty Advisory Council, told The News-Gazette. “He’s not been working with students, advising them. He’s not been deliberating curricula, he’s not been engaged in sustained research, and he hasn’t had to juggle all of those teaching, research, scholarship, and service activities.”
The open seat is the only one reserved for a faculty member on the 16-member board.
Mr. Bambenek, who The News-Gazette reports is out of the country for the week, did not reply to The Chronicle’s request for comment. He wrote in an email to the The News-Gazette that he welcomed the chance to meet with anyone who opposed his nomination.
In a release quoted by The News-Gazette, a spokeswoman for Governor Rauner said Mr. Bambenek’s “knowledge and experience make him a valuable addition to the Illinois Board of Higher Education. He is qualified under statute to serve in this position.”
Clarification (5/18/2016, 11 a.m.): This post originally said Mr. Burbules planned to send a letter to the governor. He is drafting the letter on behalf of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Senate Executive Committee. The letter will come from the committee, not Mr. Burbules. The post has been updated accordingly.