President calls for ‘new traditions’

By Nancy Broten

LaTourette: students, faculty are keys to future growth, improvement at NIU

“We have all the key ingredients—fine students, good academic programs, good athletes and excellent faculty,” said NIU President John LaTourette, emphasizing “the need to encourage new traditions” at NIU.

LaTourette just completed his first year as president after replacing Clyde Wingfield in May, 1986. LaTourette served as acting president during the 1984-85 academic year. Other than those two years, he was provost, the second-highest position at NIU, beginning in 1979.

There is no reason for lack of school spirit at NIU, LaTourette said. He said he is optimistic about future school sprit and looks forward to the 1987-88 school year.

“Students are coming to us better prepared each year,” said LaTourette, noting the rise in ACT scores of incoming freshman.

“The quality of the athletes’ academics is also very high,” LaTourette said. He said 75 percent of NIU’s men and women athletes graduate, compared to the national average of 50 percent.

“More than 150,000 students have graduated from NIU, some of them making very substantial marks in their professions,” he said.

LaTourette said these alumni’s emotional support is helping some university traditions take hold. In time, school spirit traditions, such as those evident at the University of Illinois, also could be a part of NIU, he said.

“The university has become an institution of choice,” LaTourette said. “Application flow has increased dramatically, forcing NIU to be more selective in terms of admitting students.”

NIU received more than 13,000 freshman applications for the 1987-88 school year although only 3,500 slots were available. The resulting deadline for the ‘87-88 school year was early February—a unusually early deadline for a state university, LaTourette said.

“Students have recognized that Northern has some very strong academic programs and offers a good residential experience,” he said. “But, on the other hand, we (the administration) are forced to turn away many well-qualified students who have very good academic credentials.”

NIU turned down more than 1,650 applicants last year, LaTourette said. He said the university could grow by at least 1,000 students each year “if we have the budgetary support from the state and the space that would allow us to offer students the academic programs they desire.”

The College of Engineering and Engineering Technology is one academic area that will undergo substantial changes in the next several years. Propositions for a new engineering building on campus to accomodate the growing number of engineering students coming to NIU have been made.

“Engineering will be admitting, in effect, a second class,” LaTourette said. The Sycamore location is becoming too small for the more than 1,000 students in the Engineering/Technology academic area.

The greatest shortage of engineering educational opportunities is for students with 24-30 ACT scores who cannot afford engineering schools or would be forced to go out of state, LaTourette said. “This is the type of student we seem to be attracting.”

Much media attention was given to the anti-discrimination rallies held on campus during early March. “Unfortunately, the media made the rally appear to be a riot. In contrast, it was a peaceful and quite moving experience,” LaTourette said.

“We’ve made a strong attempt to improve access for minority students. Programming is available to them, and these rallies are a clear indication that there is a great support on campus to overcome sexual and racial discrimination,” he said. “The president can issue statements, get on television, but until people on campus are convinced that changes need to occur, only then will changes occur.”