Physical therapy future uncertain

By Katrina Kelly

A decision concerning the possible elimination of NIU’s physical therapy program will be made by April 1, NIU Provost Kendall Baker said Sunday.

Baker said any decision made will enable students enrolled in the program to graduate as scheduled. “The university is obligated to graduate these students regardless of the future of the program,” he said.

The April 1 deadline for the decision was set so the program’s faculty will know whether or not to admit a new class, Baker said.

Baker met with two student representatives from the physical therapy department for more than one hour on Friday.

Earl Goodman, associate dean of the College of Professional Studies,also said NIU would not end the physical therapy program before students already accepted into the program could graduate.

“That is not the kind of decision the university tends to make,” Goodman said.

Goodman said any decision made would affect only the admission of new students into the physical therapy program.

Mary Jane Harris, physical therapy program coordinator, said 21 juniors and 24 seniors are enrolled in the program. About 250 students are registered in the pre-physical therapy program, Harris said.

Goodman said NIU’s budget “doesn’t have the flexibility” to provide the program with more clinical laboratory space in the University Health Service building.

“No decision has been made to assure adequate space,” he said.

Goodman said space has been a problem for the physical therapy program since asbestos was discovered in a clinic room in the health center basement. The room was closed this semester and no clinic room was offered for the program’s use in its place, he said.

Julie Senior is an NIU sophomore planning to apply for fall 1989 admission to the physical therapy program. “A lot of people come here (to NIU) for this program. It adds a lot of prestige to the university and there is a large demand because there are so few schools (offering physical therapy programs),” she said.

Harris said NIU is one of four Illinois schools offering a physical therapy program, along with the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University in Evanston and the Chicago Medical School.

Harris declined comment on the future of the NIU physical therapy program.

Kim Pyle, a junior physical therapy major, said Olive Kimball, chairwoman of allied health professions, told Pyle’s class Thursday the program might be cut because it is one of the more expensive programs in the allied health department.

“She (Kimball) said there is a high probability that the program would be phased out,” Pyle said.

Kimball could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Pyle said she and several classmates have been writing to NIU physical therapy alumni, asking them to write letters to NIU administrators opposing the possible end of the program.

“I think the more people we get to write letters, the more the university will realize the physical therapy program is something that is needed and worthwhile to keep,” Pyle said.