NIU hopeful to add two

By Vickie Snow

NIU officials are hopeful that Gov. James Thompson will sign a bill adding two voting members to the university’s governing body.

The Board of Regents—which consists of nine members appointed by the governor and three non-voting students—might expand to include an alumnus from NIU and one from Illinois State University if Thompson approves the addition next week.

The board governs NIU, ISU in Normal and Sangamon State University in Springfield, the board’s headquarters.

The bill was introduced by some state legislators who felt the board would improve by adding respected alumni.

State Rep. Gordon Ropp, R-Bloomington, and Rep. John Countryman, R-DeKalb, are sponsoring House Bill 2842, which passed overwhelmingly in the House and the Senate so far, said J. Carroll Moody, NIU University Council executive secretary and Joint University Advisory Council member.

JUAC consists of about five members from each of the Regency universities and reports relevant issues to the board.

SSU will receive a seat for an alumnus as soon as a vacancy opens, Moody said.

The NIU Alumni Association is preparing a list of potential nominees to give to NIU President John La Tourette, said Executive Director Susan Lund.

“It’s the association’s role to provide some input and to bring highly-skilled alumni to the attention of the governor,” she said.

NIU previously sought to have its own governing board and to remove itself from the board, but the request didn’t pass in the Senate last year and failed in the House.

ISU joined in the quest for a separate board last year, but its attempts also were futile.

Although NIU and ISU will not get what they initially sought, adding alumni to the board “might ease some push for a separate board,” Moody said.

But Regents Chancellor Roderick Groves claimed the issues are unrelated.

Including alumni on the board “has nothing to do with NIU not letting its own board. It stems from legislators’ feelings that the board would be strengthened with alumni,” Groves said.

“I have supported the idea (of adding alumni) since I became chancellor (in 1987),” he said.

The two-seat addition would recognize the quality of the universities’ alumni, Groves said, adding the university of Illinois’ Board of Trustees is totally comprised of alumni.

NIU Student Regent Jim Mertes said the addition of alumni to the board shows a “logical move toward sheared governance, meaning different constituent groups are represented.

“The next logical step in the progression would be an extension of a vote to student members of the Board of Regents,” he said. “We hope the state legislature will be consistent with sheared governance.”

Two legislative sessions ago, Sen. Patrick Welch, D-Peru, introduced the bill to give NIU its own governing board, Moody said.

But introducing another bill did not revive the issue, he said.

Sen. Welch required public hearings last year for outside input on the separate boards issue, but restructuring was not pushed by those who spoke up.

“The majority of the panel recommended no changes, but witnesses who testified had recommended alumni on the board as something desirable,” Moody said.

“I can’t see any major objections Gov. Thompson could have,” Moody said. But some people argue that the larger a group is, the less effective it becomes, he said.

Moody said Gov. Thompson might question what place alumni have on a governace board for higher education.