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WIU Board Opts for Presidential Search Rather Than Appointment

The board discussing an issue during Friday's meeting.
The board discussing an issue during Friday's meeting.

The Western Illinois University Board of Trustees deadlocked on appointing Dr. Martin Abraham as the university's 12th president. The vote came after the board held a five hour executive session Thursday night and met behind closed doors for more than an hour Friday morning. 

Chairperson Polly Radosh and trustees Carin Stutz, Patrick Twomey, and Erik Dolieslager voted in favor hiring Abraham.

Radosh told reporters she was disappointed by the vote because she feels Abraham has strong support from the community.

“He has done a fabulous job initially in rallying the community and the institution and has come in with fresh ideas. So I was very hopeful that the board would appoint him,” Radosh said.

Trustees Greg Aguilar, Kisha Lang, Doug Shaw, and Justin Brown voted against the motion to appoint Abraham.

Aguilar told reporters, “In order for us to create equitable opportunities for people to apply for positions, it’s important that we have an open and equitable process. I felt that we owed it to the state and we owed it to Western Illinois University to have that process and that is to do a national search.”

Aguilar said he hopes Abraham applies for the presidency.

The Search

The board voted unanimously to form a 23 member committee to conduct the search. The committee will include members from both the Macomb and Quad Cities campuses. It will be allowed to spend up to $250,000.

Radosh said she would love to complete the search within the next 12 months but said 18 months is more realistic. Like Aguilar, she hoped Abraham is one of the candidates.

Radosh will chair the committee with Faculty Senate Chairperson Christopher Pynes, who criticized the board for failing to discuss in public the motion to name Abraham president.

“The chair said you spent five hours last night and an hour this morning in closed session discussing a matter and then the public got zero discussion of the matter on the floor before you voted,” said Pynes.

“That is unacceptable and a dereliction of your duties.”

Western hired Abraham in the spring to serve as provost starting July 1, 2019. But when President Jack Thomas announced in mid-June that he would step down at the end of the month, the board agreed to have Abraham serve as acting president.

In October, the board appointed Abraham interim president. He will continue to serve in that capacity through at least June 30, 2020. His annual compensation as interim president is $294,000.

Copyright 2021 Tri States Public Radio. To see more, visit Tri States Public Radio.