by Chancellor Richard Ringeisen
UIS Athletics -- A response
Dear Faculty Colleagues:
I have reviewed the proposed Campus Senate resolution that asks me to terminate Dr. Rodger Jehlicka, Director of Athletics, and calls for a Trustees' investigation of our athletics department, and I want to respond promptly.
I unequivocally oppose the resolution's recommendations, and I want to explain why.
The resolution seems to emanate primarily from two overriding concerns: (1) the recent resignation of three coaches, and (2) a 2004 report that included 11 recommendations regarding athletics at UIS.
The truth is, in the situations leading up to the coaches' recent resignations, Rodger acted quickly and decisively for the benefit of our student-athletes. I cannot provide a lot of details due to both employee and student confidentiality safeguards, but I can say that Rodger worked with Human Resources and used other university units to step in, assist and protect our students. Ali Fitzgerald, assistant director of athletics for compliance, also spent hours with our student-athletes and continues to provide support. Due to reasons of confidentiality, most people do not know all of the things that Rodger, Ali and the university administration have done for the benefit of our student-athletes in recent weeks. They could not have acted more quickly and properly. For example, Rodger brought the softball team back from Florida immediately after concerns were expressed and began an investigation as soon as they returned. Ali met with every student involved, as well as coaches, and all this was done within 24 hours of their return. Resignations were submitted by the two softball coaches within the week. The resignation of the golf coach was unrelated to those of the softball coaches. A separate investigation took place.
As for the 2004 report, there were 11 recommendations in the Executive Summary regarding our Department of Athletics. To say we have ignored or not addressed these recommendations is inaccurate. We have addressed these recommendations. More pertinent is that we have had a complete change in Athletics administration since that report came out. Our current administrators have instituted policies and practices that are first-rate. Perhaps there is more we can do. If so, we always welcome suggestions, ideas and dialogue. As I wrote earlier, our student-athletes are students first. The grade point averages of our student-athletes are impressively high, as is the number of student-athletes on the academic honor roll. All of us, together, can be very proud of this.
By coincidence the eligibility officer of the American Midwest Conference, our current NAIA conference, called Rodger last evening to say the conference would miss our athletic department and praised our folks here. When I heard of this I asked if she would mind writing me a letter. That letter is attached (pdf). Further, the NCAA Division II contact, when asked, said that he was extremely pleased with our Athletic Director's actions.
Where there are concerns about athletics, we have reasonable and civil venues and processes for discussions and deliberations. I am always open to conversations and deliberations about what is best for UIS and our students.
I like to think we're on a continuing journey, together, to build a university and find new ways to make this a great place for all of our students, faculty and staff.
Richard D. Ringeisen, Chancellor