Faculty Senate tables confidence vote again

By Nick Bosshart

DeKALB | The Faculty Senate voted to table discussion of a vote of confidence in President Doug Baker at a Wednesday meeting.

A confidence vote, originally brought up during a Jan. 25 Faculty Senate meeting, was previously tabled at the March 29 meeting. Instead, members decided to explore the possibility of faculty involvement in the presidential evaluation process, according to a March 30 Northern Star article.

Although Wednesday’s meeting was the last scheduled Faculty Senate meeting for the spring semester, the vote was only a motion to table the confidence vote for future discussion, said Faculty Senate Speaker Greg Long.

“The resolution is simply that the Faculty Senate resolved to demonstrate their confidence in Dr. Douglas D. Baker to lead Northern Illinois University [in the] past, present, or the foreseeable future,” Long said.

Faculty Senate members moved to table the vote of confidence, citing a lack of understanding for what such a vote would mean.

“I’m not quite sure what a vote of confidence means,” said Assistant Professor Linda Saborio. “Does it mean that we’re confident he’s going to show up to work tomorrow? Yes. Does it mean that we’re confident that he will have all budget issues resolved by the end of the year? No, probably not.”

Tabling the discussion does not mean it cannot be brought up at future meetings, said Faculty Senate Speaker Greg Long.

“For the time being, it’s off the agenda,” Long said.

Concerns with Bakers presidential performance have arisen in the past five months. In the Jan. 25 Faculty Senate meeting, members addressed Baker’s Dec. 22 email to the NIU community in which he announced upgrading NIU’s Whistleblower Policy and revising employment policies as a result of “weaknesses in internal controls, some limited compliance violations, and lack of clarity of policies across multiple units,” that occurred in 2013 and 2014, according to the email.

Michael Haji-Sheikh, associate professor of electrical engineering, originally proposed to take the confidence vote in a March 24 email. He then presented a report to Faculty Senate at the March 29 meeting detailing his concerns for Baker’s “principles of accountability and oversight.”

The Board of Trustees is responsible for presidential reviews, which occur multiple times throughout a president’s term. Other parties may participate in the reviews, such as “University Council, the NIU Foundation, the NIU Alumni Association, representatives of student and community organizations and any other persons or entities which the Board deems appropriate,” according to the Board of Trustees’ bylaws.

The president is subject to review regarding his or her compliance with university procedures and policies and compliance with federal and state statutes, according to the bylaws.

Baker opened up the annual presidential review by the Board of Trustees to faculty, staff and students, according to an April 17 Baker Report. The University entered into a contract with the consulting firm Greenwood/Asher & Associates, Inc. on April 1 to conduct interviews with about 100 members of the university community — which will include representatives from Faculty Senate, the Operating Staff Council, the Supportive Professional Staff Council and the Student Association, as well as alumni, members of the Board of Trustees, deans, members of the senior cabinet and all those who report directly to the president — for feedback on the president’s performance, according to the report.

Results of the Greenwood/Asher & Associates, Inc. review are expected to be presented to the Board of Trustees in the “May-June timeframe,” according to the report.