WIU board meetings cancelled

A door sign on the front entrance of the WIU-Quad Cities campus, in Moline, announces that two days of scheduled board meetings have been canceled because a quorum had not been reached. 

MOLINE — The turmoil at Western Illinois University continues.

On Wednesday night, two members of the university’s eight-person Board of Trustees were quietly removed.

Then, on Thursday morning, the board canceled two days of regularly scheduled meetings in Moline.

The reason was low attendance: only three members showed up, preventing a quorum from being met. The quorum for a board meeting is five.

“Some things came up,” said Darcie Shinberger, executive director of University Communications. “Life happens.”

In attendance on Thursday morning were Polly Radosh, board chair; Justin Brown, the board’s student representative; and Eric Dolieslager. Trustee Greg Aguilar, of East Moline, was said to be on his way to the meeting when he received notification that the board would not reach a quorum.

On Wednesday Nicholas Padgett and Jackie Thompson had their board appointments withdrawn by the office of Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker.

"The administration determined it was in the best interest of the WIU community to go a different direction, and we wish both of them well," wrote the governor's press secretary Jordan Abudayyeh in a statement. "We expect to name additional appointees shortly."

The removal of two trustees came as a shock to many observers. Last month, Padgett and Thompson were re-elected to serve as board vice-chair and secretary, respectively.

Several Macomb faculty and residents had driven roughly 80 miles to attend the scheduled meeting, at the WIU-Quad Cities campus, only to learn of its cancellation. One WIU-Macomb staff member had heard that one trustee was said to be sick and another had a family emergency.

According to University General Counsel Elizabeth Duvall, the Board remains an eight-member board, even with two trustees removed. The two open slots will be appointed by the governor.

The sudden removal of a quarter of the board the night before major meetings meant that the board had only a slim margin of absence — only one of the six remaining members could miss the meeting for a quorum to be reached.

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The removal of Padgett and Thompson marks a full turnover of board leadership since mid-June.

Aguilar, who was named board chair in April, was not reelected to the position at the June board meeting. He was replaced by Radosh, a resident of Good Hope, Ill.

Also at the June meeting, former WIU President Jack Thomas announcing his resignation at the June meeting of the WIU board. His exit package has been criticized by some as “lavish” at a time when the university struggles with low enrollment and layoffs.

Thomas, 58, will receive a salary worth more than $270,000 while he takes a two-year leave. He will then be allowed to return to the faculty at a salary higher than the university’s best-paid professors.

He declined to elaborate on his next steps when asked at the June board meeting.

Martin Abraham, who was named university provost and academic vice president in May, has served as acting president since July 1. He will continue to serve as acting president until further notice, according to a statement from the university.

Abraham had previously served as a professor, dean, and provost at Youngstown State University, in Youngstown, Ohio.

The two-day board meetings were originally planned to be a retreat for the board to bond and discuss big-picture items. University personnel said that did not know when or why the retreat was changed to two days of meetings.

One trustee said he had to scramble to rearrange work commitments to attend the sessions, which were scheduled to take up full agendas

Topics that were scheduled to have been discussed include board approval of the presidential contract, elimination of several academic programs and ongoing issues with low enrollment.

Board members could not be immediately reached for comment on Thursday morning.

The next board meeting is scheduled for October 3-4, in Macomb.

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