Dividing VP role will increase productivity

NIU is taking an important step in cutting the costs of administrative positions by disassembling the job of retiring vice president Bill Nicklas.

As vice president of Operations and Community Relations, Nicklas oversaw the NIU Police Department, human resources and community relations and acted as a liaison to the Board of Trustees, among other things. These responsibilities will now be divided among at least five employees who work at NIU or who will be hired, NIU President Doug Baker announced in a Thursday Baker Report.

NIU is making the right call in using Nicklas’ departure to revamp the university’s structure and cut expenses, especially in light of Baker’s Faculty Senate announcement that NIU will cut administrative positions and increase recruitment and retention to help with finances.

Disassembling the vice president of Operations and Community Relations role should save NIU money, as Nicklas made about $200,000 in Fiscal Year 2014, according to the Illinois Board of Higher Education. Cutting costs wherever possible is necessary since NIU is working on a tight Fiscal Year 2015 budget that put expenses at $425 million and revenue at $426 million.

Beyond saving money, the division of Nicklas’ job should improve efficiency. Nicklas was an adept vice president who was able to manage his responsibilities because of his background as city manager of DeKalb and Sycamore, but his replacements will be able to focus more closely on individual goals and problems through the strategy of dividing and conquering.

NIU will also move responsibilities to divisions more suited to the jobs, like having Communiversity Initiatives Director Jennifer Groce, who will take over Nicklas’ community relations responsibilities, report to Anne Kaplan in the Division of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development. There, Groce will focus on “community/university issues, continue to support high-priority communiversity initiatives that contribute to a vital campus community and thriving neighborhoods and work with local stakeholders to foster the development of the DeKalb community,” according to the Baker Report.

The university must continue to look for ways to cut costs among its administration as it seeks to save money and improve the student experience, but its changes in the wake of Nicklas’ departure should help.