Among a slew of bills filed this week as the General Assembly opened its new session was a proposal to give $50 million to Southern Illinois University. The money would be used to build a public policy center in downtown Springfield.
The measure is sponsored by State Sen. Andy Manar, a Democrat from Bunker Hill who represents part of the capital city and graduated from SIU. In announcing the bill, he said SIU might open a satellite law school, perhaps next to the Governor's Mansion, on the vacant lot known as the “Y block.”
That idea came as a surprise to Susan Koch, chancellor of the University of Illinois Springfield.
“Well, we didn’t know about the bill. I mean, he didn’t share that with the University of Illinois, and I don’t necessarily think he had any obligation to do that,” she said.
UIS is set to receive $15 million in state funds for a project developed in partnership with Innovate Springfield and Discovery Partners Institute, supported by the City of Springfield and the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln. That project is also tentatively planned for the Y block.
But Koch insists she isn’t worried.
“We absolutely do have plans that have been well underway for several months, and I’m very confident that they’re going to come to fruition,” she said. “My focus is moving forward with the Innovate Springfield expansion into the hub for the Illinois Innovation Network. That’s where our energy is going.”
Koch says all proposals are in preliminary stages and will eventually get sorted out.
“I think all entities are interested in a vibrant Springfield community; I think we’re all on the same page,” she said.