Wingfield deal possible attempt to cut contract

By Mike Solley

The Board of Regents might be trying to cut long-term expenses by granting NIU Professor Clyde Wingfield a year off with pay—a move that could eliminate the former NIU president’s salary from NIU’s payroll.

A Regent member, who asked not to be identified, said the Regents are hoping Wingfield will find another job while working with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities in Washington D.C.

Some Regents are hoping Wingfield will find other work so they do not have to continue paying his salary until he retires, the Regent said.

The deal was intended to trade one year’s salary while Wingfield is on leave instead of continuing to pay his salary until he retires, the Regent said.

NIU President John LaTourette said the salary issue was one way of looking at the situation, but said he was not in a position to comment on the Regents’ motives.

Wingfield has about 15 years of eligibility to collect his $70,000 annual salary and can earn more than $1 million before retiring.

“That is totally untrue,” Regent Clara Fitzpatrick said, concerning the motive for the Wingfield deal. “Dr. Wingfield is welcome to remain at NIU until his retirement.”

State Rep. John Countryman, R-DeKalb, said he has received many angry phone calls from members of the NIU community. Many people hope that Wingfield finds another job.

LaTourette said Wingfield reportedly was looking for another university administrative post and his leave might result in a new position. “His trip to Washington offers him exposure to a whole range of job opportunities.”

Countryman said paying Wingfield’s salary was an expensive way to deal with a problem.

“If they (the Regents) wanted to get rid of him why not just go after his tenure? Wingfield is like a white elephant. If they don’t need him to teach classes, they should just put him out to pasture.”

Fitzpatrick said she would give Wingfield a positive recommendation if he applies for another position.

She labeled him “a good administrator who had great vision for NIU.”

Fitzpatrick said the controversy surrounding $100,000 in university funds for the remodeling of Wingfield’s home, which led to Wingfield’s resignation, was “a figment of the press.”

Wingfield denied that he was actively seeking employment at another university. He admitted he had received several job offers, among them a nomination for the presidency of another university. “I am not actively discussing a new job with anyone now.”

When asked if he will return to his position as professor of political science with full tenure when his leave expires in May 1989, Wingfield said he had not decided if he would stay. “Who knows what the future holds?”

Countryman said the deal seems to be a substantial deviation from policy concerning leaves. He said Wingfield had been given a sixth-month leave with pay in 1986.

“I’ve received some calls saying the deal was worthwhile,” Countryman said. Two of the arguments claim Wingfield will be working to benefit NIU and also that his research will make the AASCU “more viable.”

“Both (reasons) are pretty bogus,” Countryman said. “The only benefit I can see would be his (Wingfield’s) resignation.”

The Regents suggested the leave of absence, Wingfield said. “The idea of the fellowship was first proposed to me by the chancellor (Roderick Groves).”

Groves is on vacation and could not be reached for comment.

“The AASCU is a legitimate organization who’s work will benefit the Regency System,” LaTourette said. It will not be a vacation for Wingfield. “He will have to show contribution” to the projects being worked on. “Work will be expected of him.”

Wingfield, who resigned as NIU president in June 1986, said he has accepted the position of “senior fellow” with the AASCU.

AASCU President Allan Ostar said Wingfield will be acting “primarily in an advisory role.” Wingfield also will serve in a “consulting capacity to the association,” he said.

Wingfield was asked to resign as NIU president after it was revealed he authorized $100,000 to remodel his home.