LaTourette stays silent when asked of Palmer

By Susie Snyder

The President’s Commission on the Status of Minorities received no comment at its regular meeting Thursday from NIU President John LaTourette when he was asked for his opinion of the dismissal of CHANCE counselor Martha Palmer.

LaTourette said that although the request for his opinion was placed as the first item on the meeting’s agenda, he hoped the commission would appreciate the fact that the matter is a personnel issue which is under the university appeals process.

“It would be inappropriate for the benefit of Ms. Palmer or the university for me to discuss the issue while it is in progress,” he said.

LaTourette said he has confidence in NIU’s appeals process and that Palmer will receive a fair trial. He said Palmer has a strong and competent academic adviser and that a competent panel has been chosen for her hearing.

“If the conditions are appropriate when the appeals process is completed,” LaTourette said he will discuss the issue.

Sherman Stanage, a philosophy professor and Palmer’s academic adviser for her appeals, said he appreciated LaTourette’s reluctance to discuss the issue during the appeals process. However, he said the president had made comments that “must be rebutted.”

LaTourette commented in Monday’s Northern Star that Palmer has known the reasons for dismissal “all along” and that she did not begin her appeals process until late September.

Stanage said he had a document proving that Palmer had appealed her dismissal two days after she received notice that her contract would not be renewed in December. He then read from a letter dated June 29 which Palmer wrote to her direct supervisor, CHANCE program Director Leroy Mitchell.

The letter stated that Palmer had received the notice of her firing, but that she was not in agreement with the decision. “As an employee, I am also entitled to ‘due process’ in the matter,” Palmer stated. The letter also requested a list of causes for her dismissal.

LaTourette said Stanage should take his concerns to the hearing board because it is a matter of interpretation whether the letter should be considered as a request for appeals. “I feel that if I respond, I will put myself in a very difficult position,” he said.

In other business, commission Chairman Walter Owens asked LaTourette to comment on whether he was aware of present hostilities between whites and minorities on campus.

LaTourette said he was not aware of any hostilities and that he believed “hostilities” was a harsh term. He said he did not believe NIU is characterized by “institutional racism.

“What we are seeing is a much greater awareness about discrimination,” LaTourette said. He said that because more people across the United States are becoming concerned about racism, more attention is being placed on racist actions.

LaTourette said he tends to believe NIU’s problem with racism stems from individuals rather than from the institution as a whole.