Center gains interim director

By Stephanie Bradley

Michael Gonzales, associate professor of history at NIU, was recently selected as the interim director of the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies.

“There was strong support for Gonzales from everyone. He is very well-respected and has good relations with students and their issues,” Peter Nicholls, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said.

The center was in the spotlight last semester because of the controversy surrounding the university’s decision to wait until this fall to begin searching for a permanent director. Latino Student Movement members demanded a permanent director be appointed immediately after the departure of the center’s previous director, sociology professor Felix Padilla. Padilla resigned and left NIU in July, but administrators said it was not possible to replace him immediately.

A special committee to review the needs of the center had been given the job of finding a director for the center, Nicholls said. But because of student protest, the nationwide search for the director had to be delayed and an interim director found instead.

A search was conducted within the university for the position because a nationwide search would take too long, Nicholls said. A full-blown nationwide search for a permanent director will be conducted later this semester, he said.

NIU student Gerardo Diaz, who was on the special committee, said time constraints prevented the center from finding a permanent director by this fall. Since fiscal year 1989 began July 1, most of the possible candidates are already contracted out to other universities, he said.

The committee asked its members for nominations for the positions, Nicholls said. He said it was difficult to find someone for the positions because the candidate “has to be a scholar, student interests in mind, administrative skills and personal skills needed to relate to different groups.”

Since there was strong support for Gonzales from everyone involved, including NIU Provost Kendall Baker and LA&S Dean James Norris, he was offered the position for a one-year term, Nicholls said.

Gonzales said he will do everything he can to improve the center in the time he will be there, although the length of his term will allow only a limited amount of work to be done.

Nicholls agreed Gonzales will be a lot more limited as to what he can do at the center than a permanent director can do.

Nicholls said there will probably be a permanent director for the center by July 1989. He anticipates a difficult search because candidates for centers like NIU’s are in great demand at other schools and the requirements for the position are stiff.

Gonzales indicated it is too early to know whether he will apply for the permanent directorship. He also said he would not have accepted the interim directorship without the Latino students’ support.