Provost makes apology to college staff

By Dawn Panka

NIU Provost Kendall Baker has offered his apologies for what he said was a well-intentioned but misguided attempt to bring faculty to a mandatory group counseling session.

After feeling pressure from the Faculty Senate for a response, Baker said he plans to apologize in a letter and make efforts to improve faculty interaction.

On Aug. 2, Continuing Education secretary Kathy Sherman released a message she had received requiring faculty to attend mandatory group counseling to help them deal with the death of a fellow instructor and to voice their anxieties about Continuing Education.

In an Oct. 25 memo to Senate members, Baker said he was prepared to write a letter to the Continuing Education staff apologizing for mandatory counseling, but was waiting to draft the letter until after speaking with the Senate.

Baker also said he would send a letter to the “individual who had insisted on mandatory counseling emphasizing that one could not compel individuals to participate in counseling, no matter how well-motivated such a decision might be.

“It was a terribly unfortunate circumstance that this happened,” Baker said. “It happened in the first week that the Provost’s Office had control of the College of Continuing Education and I had also been on vacation.

“A professional had been contacted, and it was the advice of the professional that everyone should be required to participate,” Baker said. “There were awfully good motives and intentions—a real desire to help folks who were truly upset.”

Another allegation blamed the lack of consultation between the Provost’s Office and the Faculty Senate on Baker’s “lack of awareness of … university bylaws.”

This is the Faculty Senate’s first year at NIU and changes were made to the constitution which were contained in “green sheets,” Baker said.

“These supplements were not integrated into the final document until June, and I was not familiar with the components in the ‘green sheets,’ but obviously I am now,” Baker said.

“It’s ironic, in some ways, because there was never any question as to whether we would seek faculty input,” Baker said.

“I fully understand the importance of establishing a strong Faculty Senate,” Baker said. “It is important to call attention to its policies and bylaws and to say to administration, like me and others, that we need to honor them.”

In the Oct. 25 memo, Baker also reaffirmed that he “would be happy to have faculty on the task force charged with collecting information about Continuing Education.”

The task force currently is made up only of administrators.

Baker also noted that June 28 was not the first time there had been indication of a reorganization in the College of Continuing Education.

“There were prior indications,” Baker said. Former Dean William Young served on the Deans’ Council, which had prepared a memo concerning Continuing Education, Baker said.

Young was dismissed as dean and reassigned to full-time faculty duties Aug. 1.

“We needed to change the leadership structure,” Baker said.

An interim director was appointed from the Provost’s Office to allow for greater access to information concerning the college, Baker said.

“From my point of view, the record is very clear,” Baker said. “I have said precisely what I intend to do, intended to do and have indicated with the executive committee of the Faculty Senate exactly how I intend to proceed.”