President Doug Baker announces resignation

By Madison Kacer

DeKALB | President Doug Baker announced his choice to resign a year prior to the end of his contract during a Thursday Board of Trustees meeting.

The Office of the Executive Inspector General, a state watchdog agency, released a report May 31 about its two-year investigation into NIU’s improper procurement and hiring practices between the years of 2013 and 2014.

The report found that NIU paid five individuals who were intentionally misclassified as affiliate employees more than a roughly $1 million combined during the two years — a choice the OEIG credited to Baker’s “mismanagement” of the university.

“The Executive Ethics Commission finally made the report public several weeks ago and unfortunately, both the board’s and my perspective were drowned out in media reports that focused on the language of the report,” Baker said at the meeting. “The result has been that the university community has continued to be distracted by the allegations in the report.”

Baker’s announcement also comes in the midst of his annual presidential review, which incorporated the voices of individuals across the university following a near vote of confidence on Baker during a March 29 Faculty Senate meeting.

“While my end-of-term evaluation process was proceeding in a positive manner, we agreed that the reaction to the OEIG report was a significant distraction,” Baker said at the meeting.

Faculty Senate members discussed possibly taking the vote of confidence in response to Baker’s lack of transparency in his discussion of the faculty hiring practices in 2013 to 2014, which he alluded to in a Dec. 22 Baker Report. Though some suspected Baker was being investigated by the OEIG, it was never confirmed because Baker was not able to discuss the investigation until the report was made public.

In lieu of the vote of confidence, members passed a resolution in which they requested involvement in the Board of Trustees’ presidential evaluation process. The resolution also requested formalized involvement of staff, students, instructors, alumni and community members in the evaluation process. This involvement was confirmed by the Board.

When making his announcement during the meeting, Baker reflected on his accomplishments since he was hired as president in 2013, including the Program Prioritization process and functioning in the absence of state appropriations.

“It’s a sad day for us that [Baker] felt he needed to leave the university to move forward,” Trustee Dennis Barsema said.

Many of the trustees called for unity in the university community for the future following a presidential transition.

“I strongly believe [Fiscal Year 2018] will be the most challenging this university will face,” Trustee John Butler said.

Board members will discuss a transition agreement in closed session Thursday, after which they will release a campus update.

Spokesperson Joe King said NIU leadership will not be giving comment after the meeting.

“I wish for nothing but the best for NIU going forward,” Baker said at the meeting. “I do hope that this agreement helps put these issues behind the university so you can look to the future with hope and confidence — because I truly believe that both are justified.”

This story is developing.