Administrators address ‘top five’ campus issues

By Susie Snyder

An audience of about 25 people listened to and asked questions of three top NIU administrators who addressed major campus issues during a special meeting Thursday night in the Holmes Student Center Heritage Room.

NIU President John LaTourette, Provost Kendall Baker and Jon Dalton, vice president for student affairs, addressed the “top five” campus issues as determined by a survey of campus organizations during a meeting sponsored by the Student Association.

The issues discussed included tuition costs, funding and access for higher education; the dismissal of CHANCE counselor Martha Palmer; reallocation of space in the student center; racism at NIU; and the efficiency of the Board of Regents.

Addressing the funding issue, LaTourette said that the news he had to share with the students was “not very good.” He said that Illinois is ranked “dead last” in the nation for state funding support for higher education and that Illinois has had the lowest increase of support during the past 10 years.

LaTourette also said that in addition to receiving the lowest amount of state support in the nation, schools governed by the Regents receive less support than other Illinois schools. He said that if NIU had more state support, tuition could be lowered by about $300 per semester.

Marna Coldwater, a John Lennon Society member, asked LaTourette, “In the face of so many cutbacks, how is it affordable and justifiable for you to receive a recent, significant pay raise?”

LaTourette answered that he did not seek the raise for himself and that he accepted the raise because he also wanted to increase salaries for other members of the administration and members of the operating and supportive professional staffs.

The three administrative members declined to comment on most aspects of the Palmer issue, but LaTourette again stated that he is “committed to using established methods to address the issue.”

Dissatisfied with LaTourette’s response, Students for the Freedom of Martha Palmer yawned loudly as the president explained he will decline comment on the issue until the formal appeals process is completed.

LaTourette touched briefly on three issues about the student center, including reconstruction of the building’s tower, reallocation of space within the center and whether the bookstore will be sold to an outside vendor.

When discussion turned to the topic of racism at NIU, LaTourette said the university is trying its best to control racism, but he is “basically discouraged that we have not seen more progress.” He said freshmen surveys have shown that during the past several years, students have been “less and less” concerned about social issues and more concerned about “making money.”

Julie Stege, another JLS member, said that although LaTourette was accusing students of being racist because their main concerns are about money, the university also is mainly concerned with money.

“It is so concerned about money that (NIU) is only training students to make money—which points a finger back to the university as being institutionally racist,” she said.

Baker said he believed Stege’s observations were “interesting” and that NIU has general education requirements because of a belief that students will begin to address issues such as racial sensitivity during those courses. He also noted that most students tell him “they can’t wait to get their gen eds over with.”

Coldwater said students only want to get out of their gen ed requirements because classes are overcrowded and “they’re just being herded through them like cattle.”