All need input in program priorities

Students must make their voices heard at today’s town hall meetings if they want to play a larger role in NIU’s program prioritization process.

During the prioritization process, NIU will use the list of criteria and the judgments of two task forces to determine what programs are cut, merged and receive more funding. Every student’s program is potentially on the chopping block.

Provost Lisa Freeman said those organizing the prioritization process are still looking into how to involve students. If students push for it, they may be allowed to participate in a post-town hall survey about the criteria on which programs will be judged, she said. There are no plans to include students on the task forces that will ultimately decide the fate of NIU’s programs. In fact, there’s far too little room for students to be involved.

That’s a big mistake — student opinion is too valuable to go unused by NIU.

Freeman said the prioritization process will take nine to 12 months and will occur once every three to four years, which means the task forces will need people with a long-range view of the university who are familiar with NIU’s budget and background. Those are good reasons for why students can’t lead the prioritization process, but there’s no reason to exclude them almost completely.

A student — perhaps a junior in the Student Association to ensure that student will be at NIU throughout the cycle of prioritization — should be present at task force meetings to represent student opinions on the effects of cutting, merging or further funding a program. That student may be elected, which will give other students an incentive to participate in shared governance: They will need a strong, well-informed person to protect their interests.

Students must push for more representation. At the town hall meetings today, NIU President Doug Baker and Freeman will explain prioritization before answering questions from attendees.

Go. Show them you care about these changes. Ask about what prioritization may mean for your academic program. Ask about how students can get involved.

Ask what NIU needs to hear to realize students have a stake in this.