EDITORIAL | Consistent community feedback needed in presidential search


The presidential search process cannot be secretive 

By Editorial Board

The Northern Star Editorial Board would like to commend the Board of Trustees on the preliminary steps it has taken in the search for NIU’s next president; we also ask the Trustees take these steps even further and learn from past mistakes.

In the past, NIU did not handle the presidential search as an open process. During the search that led to the hiring of former president Doug Baker, who resigned after a state watchdog agency’s Office of Executive Inspector General report found he had mismanaged university funds, officials chose not to include the community in the search and to keep the process “behind closed doors,” according to a March 24, 2013, Northern Star editorial.

It seems university officials have learned from those mistakes and are taking steps to do better this time around. The Board of Trustees has reached out to seven councils on campus to get their input on how to improve the presidential search process, according to an Aug. 31 Northern Star article.

What is most promising about the Trustees’ first steps in this process is their decision to include feedback from the Student Association, which has also reached out to a variety of students from different backgrounds to ensure many perspectives are heard, according to an Aug. 31 Northern Star article. The Editorial Board believes by including various representatives of the NIU community, the Trustees are repairing a lack of trust between students and the administration.

The previous presidential search was shrouded in secrecy. The public was not allowed to know the identities of candidates, and just as the Editorial Board in 2013 called upon those candidates to come forward then, the current board requests the identities of potential candidates be made known early on.

“We’re looking for input on the characteristic of the future president, as well as the timing,” said Wheeler Coleman, Board of Trustees chairperson.

We would like the Board of Trustees to take this first step of inclusion even further into the process. While we applaud the Board’s use of community input to potentially inform their search criteria. However, we also recommend that when a group of candidates are selected, the Board allow councils and students time to research them and give further feedback.

Our caution to the Board and largest concern is that community participation will end in the early stages leaving us all in the dark again. Do not allow this to happen. As students we have a right to know what kind of person will lead this institution.