Past presidents comment on proposal

By Claudia Curry

State Sen. Partrick Welch, D-Peru, has made a proposal calling for a separate governing board for NIU which has prompted different reactions from former NIU presidents.

Richard Nelson, NIU president from 1971 to 1978, said he does support the proposal to establish a separate governing board for NIU. “I hope that the time has finally come and the bill will pass.

“Southern Illinois University received their own governing board years ago and it has helped them to evolve as a university and provide for their students,” Nelson said.

“NIU is just as signifigant as SIU and it should have its own board,” he continued. “I think a separate governing board would be more committed to the growth, development and improvement of NIU.”

William Monat, NIU president from 1978 to 1985, said that while he was president of NIU he never took a position on whether or not NIU should have its own governing board.

Clyde Wingfield, NIU president from 1985 to 1986, said he had no comment on the issue for The Northern Star.

In 1983, House Bill 700, which would have set up a separate governing board for NIU, was the closest such a proposal has ever come to passing, Monat said. While the bill was on the floor of the Illinois State General Assembly, Monat said he was advised by former Regents Chairman David Murray against taking a position on the issue. Monat said the university then decided not to hold a position and was never asked to testify for or against the bill.

“You can make a case for a separate governing board for NIU and you can make a case against it.” Monat, who is also a member of the Board of Regents Joint University Advisory Committee, said, “NIU is evolving. It now has a law school and engineering school.

“NIU has a unique opportunity to be a source of research and development for this part of the state and a separate governing board might better support its interests,” Monat said. “Also, NIU is a different type of school than ISU and SSU.”

He said one argument against a separate board is that although NIU has differences from the other Regency schools, so do the schools in the Board of Trustees system (SIU-Carbondale and Edwardsville) and the University of Illinois system (Urbana and Chicago).

Monat said that for the ten years in which he dealt with the Board of Regents he found the board to be very supportive of the university and its endeavors.

“Some of the board’s decisions have not been greeted with favor while some have been approved by the people,” Monat said. “While I was president, I can’t think of a major recommendation that NIU brought to the board that the board did not approve. They strongly approved of every request that required IBHE support.”

Both Nelson and Monat said that while they were president they always felt free to voice their opinions and never felt any pressure from the board to agree and support them.