Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Innocent man represented by UIS Illinois Innocence Project receives executive clemency 23 years after his death in prison

The Illinois Innocence Project at the University of Illinois Springfield is pleased to announce that Grover Thompson, who was wrongfully convicted in 1981 and died in prison in 1996, has received executive clemency based on actual innocence by former Gov. Bruce Rauner. This is the first posthumous exoneration to occur in Illinois and only the 21st such exoneration nationwide, as documented by the National Registry of Exonerations.

“We applaud Gov. Rauner for bringing justice to an innocent man who had no chance to fight for himself,” said John Hanlon, executive director of the Illinois Innocence Project. “We also applaud members of Illinois law enforcement who recognized Grover’s innocence years ago and, with incredible involvement and devotion, fought with us to clear Grover’s name 23 years after his death.”

Lt. Paul Echols (retired), of the Carbondale, Illinois Police Department, was instrumental in uncovering Thompson’s innocence. While investigating several cold case murders in Carbondale, Lt. Echols along with Detective Jimmy Smith, of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, obtained a confession from serial rapist and murderer Tim Krajcir for the crime Thompson was wrongfully convicted of committing.

The case caught the attention of two Southern Illinois University (SIU) School of Law students working for the Illinois Innocence Project. In 2011, Thompson’s nephew, S.T. Jamison, and the Illinois Innocence Project filed an Executive Clemency Petition with the Illinois Prisoner Review Board asking for Thompson’s posthumous exoneration. No one opposed the petition. In December 2015, Gov. Rauner denied Thompson’s exoneration without explanation.

“Grover’s case is the poster child of injustice,” said Lt. Echols. “In my 28 years as a police officer and 10 years as a criminal justice professor, this was the most disturbing case of injustice I have ever seen. I’m proud to have been part of the team that finally found justice for Grover.”

In 1981, 46-year-old Thompson, a black man, was traveling by bus to visit family in Mississippi and stopped to rest in a Mount Vernon, Illinois, post office lobby. At the same time, Krajcir, a white man sometimes mistaken for a dark-complexioned man, broke into 72-year-old Ida White’s home and stabbed her repeatedly while she resisted his attempts to rape her.  

The police quickly set their sights on Thompson after a neighbor reported a black man fleeing the scene. Despite that, Thompson, who was found sleeping in the post office across the street, could not have committed the crime due to a disability and was not wearing clothing that fit the description of the attacker. He was arrested, convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

“Uncle Grover suffered a tragedy that never should have happened,” said S.T. Jamison, Grover’s nephew, from his home in Minnesota. “He was an innocent black man just trying to get home to his family and he never came home.”

“I am thrilled beyond words that his innocence has finally been acknowledged,” he said. “I thank the good people of the Illinois Innocence Project and God for justice for my dear Uncle Grover. I also am grateful to Gov. Rauner. I and my family members are unspeakably elated!”

Posthumous exonerations are extremely rare. Of the 2,363 exonerations documented since 1989 by the National Registry of Exonerations, only 20 are posthumous. Ten of those posthumous exonerations are of individuals, like Thompson, who died in prison.

“We’ve learned about the many reasons wrongful convictions happen, including tunnel vision and witness misidentification,” said Brandon Klages, a UIS senior and student worker at the Illinois Innocence Project. “Grover’s case is an example of how police can build a case around an innocent person because of their race and class, instead of allowing the evidence to lead the way.”

Lt. Echols details Thompson’s story in chapter 21 (titled “Another Victim”) of his book “In Cold Pursuit: My Hunt for Timothy Krajcir – The Notorious Serial Killer.” All proceeds from the book support the Nine Angels Memorial Scholarship at Southern Illinois University, named for the victims of Krajcir.

“I am very pleased Grover’s family finally has closure, confirming what they knew so many years ago, that Grover did not commit this crime,” said Lt. Echols, who received the Illinois Innocence Project’s “Defender of the Innocent” award in 2018 for his commitment to bringing justice to Thompson. “This closes another chapter in the sad stories caused by Krajcir. May Grover now rest in peace.”

UIS online bachelor’s degree programs ranked 33rd best in the country by U.S. News & World Report

The University of Illinois Springfield’s online bachelor’s degree programs have been ranked 33rd best in the country out of more than 348 institutions by U.S. News & World Report. The January 15 ranking put UIS among the top 10 percent of best online bachelor’s degree programs in the United States.

UIS’ online master’s degree programs were also ranked highly by U.S. News and World Report. The management information systems (MIS) online master’s degree was ranked 33 out of 150 in the non-MBA business category, while the UIS online master’s degree in education was ranked 77 out of 299 degrees.

“This is an important recognition that UIS continues to provide exceptionally high quality online learning experiences that are ranked among the top ten percent of those universities that were evaluated,” said Ray Schroeder, UIS associate vice chancellor of online learning. “The U.S. News rankings are thorough. They are the most credible among online learning rankings, assessing best practices and validated outcomes in direct comparison to the other top online learning programs nationally.”

In evaluating the best online bachelor’s degree programs, U.S. News & World Report assessed schools in four general categories including engagement – promoting student participation in courses and interaction with instructors and classmates, service and technologies – incorporating diverse online learning technologies allowing greater flexibility for students to take classes from a distance, faculty credentials and training – employing instructors with academic credentials that mirror campus-based programs and expert opinion – a survey of high-ranking academic officials.

U.S. News selects factors, known as ranking indicators, to assess each program in the categories outlined above. A program's score for each ranking indicator is calculated using data that the program reported to U.S. News in a statistical survey and a peer reputation survey.

UIS offers 14 online bachelor’s degree programs in business administration, communication, computer science, English, health care informatics, history, information systems security, liberal studies, management information systems, mathematical sciences, philosophy, political science, psychology and teacher education.

“Online degree programs provide access for students who are working, have families, and many other responsibilities in their lives,” said Vickie Cook, executive director of the UIS Center for Online Learning, Research and Service. “Online programs also offer a learning modality that provides students with more control of their learning, high impact strategies that assist with learning, more personalized attention and ability to interact directly with faculty.”

According to census data, a total of 1,636 students were enrolled in online at UIS during Fall Semester 2018. UIS online students reside in 45 states, 82 counties in Illinois and 11 foreign countries. Almost 90 percent of online majors have a mailing address outside of Sangamon County.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Somnath Bhattacharya named the new dean of the UIS College of Business and Management

Somnath (Som) Bhattacharya has been named the new dean of the College of Business and Management at the University of Illinois Springfield. Bhattacharya served as dean of the Gus Machado School of Business and professor of accounting at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Florida, since 2014.

“I am delighted and humbled to be joining the students, staff and faculty of the College of Business and Management at UIS,” said Bhattacharya. “As one of the university's critical components, the College of Business and Management is at the threshold of many opportunities. My vision, as dean, is to work closely with the College’s students, faculty, staff and UIS administration to lead the College in achieving greater academic excellence, visibility, enrollment growth and financial stability.”

Bhattacharya has also taught at Florida Atlantic University, where he served as associate, interim and acting dean of the College of Business for several periods between 2012 and 2014. Prior to those appointments, he was director of the Florida Atlantic School of Accounting from July 2006 to December 2011. He has also taught at the University of Texas at El Paso, University of South Florida, Lebanon College, Fort Hays State University and Northern Arizona University.

“Bhattacharya brings to UIS more than 25 years of experience in teaching and higher education, including more than 12 years as an administrator,” said Dennis Papini, UIS vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost. “Among his strengths, noted by the search committee, were his experience with developing entrepreneurial and interdisciplinary programs across colleges, and experience with Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accreditation and international outreach.”

Bhattacharya holds a Ph.D. in business administration with a concentration in accounting from the University of South Florida, as well as an M.B.A. with a concentration in management information systems from Northern Arizona University.

His research interests include enterprise resource planning systems’ impact on adopting companies, the impact of eXtensible Business Reporting Language on adopting companies and measuring the return on investment of corporate information technology investments. He has more than 30 journal publications in these areas in journals, such as, the Journal of Information Systems, the International Journal of Accounting Information Systems and Issues in Accounting Education.

Bhattacharya will serve as dean designate starting February 16, until the University of Illinois Board of Trustees can vote on his full appointment on March 14. He will replace Ronald McNeil, who retired as dean of the UIS College of Business and Management in 2018.