ISA reviews NIU’s possible split from Regents

By Holly Schubert and Tammy Sholer

The Illinois Student Association Board of Directors evaluated state legislation introduced for the upcoming session and decided which ones they will lend support to.

The ISA staff researched about 48 bills dealing with higher education issues and made recommendations to the board of directors, which includes NIU Student Association President Paula Radtke.

A bill calling for a separate governing board for NIU was discussed extensively by the directors at their February meeting. The bill, introduced by Sen. Patrick Welch, D-Peru, would remove NIU from the Board of Regents system and establish a nine-member Board of Trustees composed of voting members from the student body, faculty and staff.

The ISA staff recommended and the directors agreed to assign the bill with “special status,” which means the ISA will “provide statements to legislative staff, oral committee testimony and a news release.”

News releases indicate that “while the ISA is supportive of efforts by students to gain better influence in governance, including governing boards, the ISA cannot support further fragmenting the current system of systems.”

The “system of systems” is a term used to describe governing boards for five Illinois universities.

During discussion on the governing board bill, directors from other universities questioned NIU’s request for a separate governing board and how it would affect the “system of systems.”

Radtke told ISA directors that the Regents “haven’t always acted in a well-thought-out matter. It’s time for a change.”

John Grigas, director from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, said although he supports the idea that NIU has outgrown the Regents, he does not believe that creating another board is the “right direction” in solving NIU’s problem.

Frances Lachowicz, director from Sangamon State University in Springfield, said her school is not “happy” with the manner in which the Board of Regents has dealt with SSU.

She said, however, that she would not want to transfer to the University of Illinois system, which is a possibility if NIU receives its own governing board.

“I don’t want to give the SA or the students at NIU the impression we’re abandoning them,” Grigas said.

A separate governing board would offer short-term help for NIU, but would hurt Illinois in the long run, he said.

The “system of systems” is “too scattered” and too many governing boards compound the problem, Grigas said.

ISA Executive Director David Starrett said, “I think the ‘system of systems’ as it stands is insane.”

Grigas said he would like to see a consolidation of systems, rather than a new system, for financial reasons. This would avoid “one more set of arms tugging at the purse strings,” he said.

Rep. John Countryman, R-DeKalb, recently introduced a bill in the House, which is almost identical to Welch’s bill.

Another bill concerning NIU, which the directors plan to oppose, proposes the denial of a drivers license, vehicle registration and a license to practice law to Illinois State Scholarship Commission loan defaulters, an ISA report states.

Radtke said the bill introduced by Welch should be opposed because if a driver’s license is revoked, one cannot drive to a job to make money to pay back the loan.

The ISA staff members will monitor the progress of the bill and file a written statement with legislators stating that the ISA opposes the bill, the report states.

The staff also will testify against the bill during senate committee hearings.

The ISA staff will monitor new legislation as it is introduced and make recommendations to directors at future ISA meetings on possible ISA action.

“he Regents) haven’t always acted in a well-thought-out matter. It’s time for a change.”

Paula Radtke, SA President