Officials examine new NIU constitution draft

By Suzanne Tomse

Copies of a draft of NIU’s new constitution and bylaws will be sent to various university constituents this week.

The move will draw the university one step closer to adopting the new document.

The drafts, with the proposed changes, will be sent to such areas as the academic departments, the Student Association, the Provost’s office and Founders Library for review of the suggested changes.

Faculty members also will receive a summary of the proposed changes to the constitution, Judy Bischoff, University Council executive secretary, said.

“I think the proposed changes are a real improvement to the current constitution. It may not be a perfect document but it shows great strides,” Bischoff said. “The task force has been at work for two years and is representative of a cross section of the university, and I think that is important,” she added.

One major proposed change in the bylaws is an increase in faculty and student membership of the UC. The summary stated that faculty seats would be increased from 23 to 28, and student seats would be increased from 12 to 14.

In addition, administrative voting seats would be decreased from 11 to nine by taking voting seats away from the vice presidents for academic affairs and student affairs. These seats will be given to the deans of degree-granting colleges, including the graduate dean. These voting seats will be ex-officio instead of by election by the Council of Deans.

Both presidents of the supportive professional staff council and the operating staff council will continue to have seats on the UC.

Decentralizing responsibility for curriculum decisions is another proposed major change in the bylaws. Departments and colleges would play a larger role in the curriculum process by initiating changes and making final curriculum decisions. This would enable university-level bodies to spend more time on planning and policy matters.

The Constitutional Task Force completely rewrote the provisions governing membership on the University Council, the summary stated. In the draft, specific provisions for membership have been removed and replaced by principles which guide the bylaws in the appointment of UC members.

The three principles include assurance that faculty occupy 51 to 65 percent of the council’s total voting seats; assurance that students occupy 25 to 30 percent of the total voting seats; and assurance that administration, supportive professional staff and operating staff have voting representation on the council.

In addition, the task force has proposed changes which would simplify the requirements for amending the constitution. The change lowers the majority of UC approval from a three-fourths vote to a two-thirds vote. For amending the bylaws, the task force has proposed that approval will require a two-thirds vote of the total UC membership instead of two-thirds of those voting on the matter.

Open hearings will be held Oct. 19 and 20 to allow members of the university community to provide input on the proposed changes.