Board reviews achievements

By Dina Paluzzi

While a bill calling for a separate governing board for NIU awaits a hearing in the Illinois Senate, a review of the contributions of the Board of Regents, NIU’s current governing body, reveals several accomplishments of the Regents.

While governed by the Board of Regents, NIU has added several schools and programs to make it a good standing university with a reputation for quality.

Regents Chancellor Roderick Groves said, “These are programs or actions or efforts that the Board of Regents and the university worked very closely on. It’s not to suggest that this is a one-way street.”

NIU, Illinois State University in Normal and Sangamon State University in Springfield formed the Regency system in 1967.

NIU Regency Professor William Monat said that during the period he served as NIU president and Regents chancellor, the Regents backed most of NIU’s major initiatives. “The Board of Regents was very supportive,” he said.

Since 1975, the Regents have been instrumental in or supported many programs and two schools at NIU according to a Regents press release prepared by Cheryl Peck, Groves’ assistant. The College of Engineering and Engineering Technology and College of Law both were added after NIU became a Regency school.

The Regents were instrumental in lining up support for the law school and supported all major decisions during the acquisition process, according to the release. The Regents also allotted $1.2 million for construction and remodeling of the NIU law school.

Groves said the Regents led a major legislative campaign and fought “some major hurdles” in establishing the law school. Organizing the NIU engineering school also was a “difficult, difficult undertaking,” Groves said.

Monat, who was Regents chancellor at the time, worked very hard to ensure the engineering school’s establishment, Groves said.

NIU Student Regent Nick Valadez said the establishment of the engineering and law schools are “not necessarily” achievements of the Regents. Those achievements could have been made by any governing board, he said.

He said, however, that the Regents have been instrumental in many other issues. The Regents have been “successful in gaining attention of the IBHE and the General Assembly,” he said.

Gov. James Thompson’s fiscal year 1990 budget recommendations include $15 million more funding for the Regency system than it received in FY89. Valadez credited a possible funding increase to the efforts of the Regents in “securing a percentage increase from the Illinois General Assembly for the Regency schools.”

Regent Brewster Parker said the Regents do a lot for NIU and the other Regency schools. “We do more lobbying than anyone has any knowledge of,” he said.

Board members constantly lobby their district legislators to convince them of the need for increased higher education funding, Parker said. Groves and the Regents’ staff also lobby with the IBHE and state legislators for increased funding for the Regency system, he said.

“Now we can’t fund the things we’ve done (because of a lack of state funding),” Parker said. The NIU law school is financially stable, but the engineering school needs more support, he said.

Several doctorate degrees, including a doctorate in biology, have been added to NIU’s curriculum, the Regents’ release states. The Regents supported the degree, even though ISU and three other state schools already offered the degree, the release states.

A cooperative program between NIU and ISU was developed for a doctorate degree in special education. The Regents persuaded ISU to enter the program even though ISU already had requested the degree. The Regents also cooperated with the IBHE to receive recognition of an NIU mission in the sciences and establish a geology doctorate.

As recently as last year, the Regents increased faculty salaries to make them equivalent to national salaries. The 8.5 percent increase awarded to NIU faculty was the highest increase in Illinois. Valadez said the Regents worked hard to get the increases, but the argument for faculty salaries “speaks for itself.”

The Regents and their staff also have helped NIU expand academic programming in Rockford and DuPage County. The Regents have supported this even though funding for the project has been limited.

Groves said the Regents have gained additional facilities for NIU in a “rather imaginative fashion. This system has been more creative and more energetic (in getting additional space) than most of the other systems in the state.”

NIU facilities built or purchased during this period include:

the Student Recreation Center,

the Art Annex Facility, to provide studio space for the College of Visual and Performing Arts,

a temporary Engineering Building,

the School of Nursing,

the Social Science Research Institute in downtown DeKalb,

Faraday II, a laboratory science building, and

the NIU Art Gallery, located on Chicago’s north side.