Fewer funds result in staff resignations

By Stephanie Bradley

The most visible evidence of the state’s lack of support for higher education is the 90 faculty resignations NIU has received in the past year.

“Illinois has a long way to go in giving assurance to (NIU’s) faculty and staff that it supports education. There seems to be a political context in which the best interests of the state are being trampled upon,” said NIU President John LaTourette.

Although NIU has received enough funds to raise salaries by eight percent, it might not be enough to stem the tide of faculty leaving NIU and the state for better jobs at other universities, LaTourette said.

Only a few of the departing faculty are staying in the state, he said. Most are leaving for prestigious universities such as Cornell and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, often for a great increase in pay.

Kendall Baker, NIU vice president and provost, said that while the pay increase might temporarily help, it will not keep faculty here who wish to do high quality research. This is because NIU does not have the support services such as new equipment to help them conduct their research, he said.

LaTourette said there is a direct correlation between research and the amount of funds generated by the university. “The greater the amount of research, the higher the tax base. The malaise we’re facing puts us out of the running for the future.”

LaTourette said he finds it amazing that Iowa, a state with a depressed farm economy and lower per capita income than Illinois, can “come up with large raises in its state schools—10 to 13 percent raises. Illinois is ninth in per capita income and ranks at the bottom for education support.”

The fact that there is no money for support or maintenance means the environment for next year’s faculty will not improve. “When the state doesn’t provide the funds, NIU has to increase tuition,” Baker said.

Even though a tuition hike could solve some problems, others could crop up. Baker said, “Some students will be forced out because it will make NIU unaffordable to certain segments of society.”

LaTourette and Baker fear that NIU will raise tuition so high that middle-class students will not have enough money to attend. They also fear tougher admission standards will keep students out of NIU.

NIU is having a problem recruiting young faculty members because “the record of the state is becoming well-known in the academic community. We are losing our best faculty to other states and can’t recruit new ones to replace them,” Baker said.

The college of Liberal Arts and Sciences has lost five percent of its faculty, which amounts to 27 faculty members, LA&S Dean James Norris said. All departments except geography, history and journalism have lost faculty as of May 9.

Norris said LA&S has been able to hire some temporary faculty, but has not been able to fill all the vacancies. This is forcing the college to reduce the number of sections of each class that are taught, which forces students out.

LaTourette said new freshmen and transfer students are being told at orientation not to be surprised if they get nothing besides English 103 or 104 on their schedules. He encourages students to fill up their schedule requests with alternate courses.

P.S. Wells, associate dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, said his college has not lost any teachers yet. However, the college nearly lost two faculty members and is still trying to convince one more member to stay. He said if there is an important staff member threatening to leave, a department might be able to obtain the funds to keep that staff member from leaving.

“It’s a good thing we were able to come up with the funds to give faculty and staff a pay raise. If we had not, the situation would have been worse,” Baker said.