Senator questions Wingfield’s salary

By Claudia Curry

State Sen. Patrick Welch, D-Peru, is questioning where the Board of Regents will obtain funding for former NIU president Clyde Wingfield’s salary while Wingfield is on an administrative leave in Washington, D.C.

Welch said the funding of Wingfield’s salary is a legitimate question which he is strongly considering bringing up to the state legislature either this November or during the spring session.

State Rep. John Countryman, R-DeKalb, said the question is a very good one on Welch’s part. “The Board of Regents approved it (Wingfield’s assignment), and the power is vested in the board. I’m not saying that they did things properly, but they do have authority,” Countryman said.

James Norris, NIU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences dean, said the funds for the three non-academic year months of Wingfield’s twelve-month contract are not in the college’s personnel budget, and he does not know where the funds are coming from.

NIU Provost Kendall Baker also said he does not know where NIU will get the money to fund Wingfield’s final three months as a senior fellow with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

Baker indicated, however, that it might not be difficult to obtain funds needed to pay Wingfield’s salary for the three non-academic months of his assignment since summer school falls within two fiscal years, and the funds could be taken from either of the two budgets.

“Obviously, he (Regents Chancellor Roderick Groves) is trying to shuffle funds,” Welch said. “I don’t know why a chancellor is reassigning a university professor. I don’t think he alone has that authority.

“The chancellor likes to use terminology to get around dealing with the university directly. I think he has been playing word games with the university by not calling things what they are,” Welch said.

“A paid leave of absence is now a ‘reassignment.’ A tuition increase is now a ‘surcharge,'” he said. “It’s like we have to use a special dictionary when dealing with the Board of Regents.”

Norris said he had never heard the word “reassignment” used in this manner until last month when Groves referred to Wingfield’s administrative leave as a reassignment.

Welch said that if the decision of Wingfield’s administrative leave was done straight out in the open, it probably would have been “open and shut” about two months ago.