New president has a lot of work ahead

The Editorial Board

Doug Baker, former provost and executive vice president at the University of Idaho, was appointed NIU’s 12th president during Tuesday’s Board of Trustees’ meeting. The Editorial Board got the opportunity to speak with Baker and open a dialogue we hope he continues under his administration.

Like with any new job, Baker’s first priority should be getting familiar with the community. This means letting the campus know who he is. The majority of the campus had no involvement in his appointment seeing as the search process was closed to the public. Being left in the dark is not a good introduction to a new administration. While we commend him on the effort he is making to meet with student organizations this week, we hope he maintains those relationships and continues to check in regularly throughout his tenure.

Academia is an area Baker is quite familiar with as a former provost and vice president. We look forward to seeing him continue on his goal of academic success by evaluating the current curriculum of many of our schools here. Our shining programs in business and engineering do not reflect the quality of education across the board. While we cannot speak for all departments at NIU, the Northern Star can speak on the lack of depth in the communication department. For example, the curriculum is dated and teachers lack initiative, according to a Sept. 27, 2011, Northern Star editorial. In order for NIU to build its academic rapport, struggling programs and departments need Baker’s attention.

Considering Baker was recruited for NIU’s and the University of Wyoming’s presidential searches around the same time, it is understandable his knowledge of NIU is preliminary. However, he now has the opportunity to research the problem areas on our campus and bring change to them. The Editorial Board asks that Baker starts by reviewing the amounts of power executive administrators have. It is no secret the Editorial Board thinks Eddie Williams should be terminated. As executive vice president of Finance and Facilities, Williams oversaw the departments that were in the spotlight for scandals this past year. We hope Baker looks into positions like Williams’ and enforces more checks and balances across the university.

Baker told the Editorial Board he has experience in bridging the gap between students and administrators through his work at the University of Idaho. Communication is key to any successful relationship; therefore, the Editorial Board would like to see him give students a voice in governing decisions like tuition increases and other policies that will directly affect the student body.

Considering the alarming number of recent scandals that have swept NIU, transparency through communication will be the ultimate disinfectant.

He should also bridge the gap between the campus and the city of DeKalb. If we are going to move toward the “communiversity” the city of DeKalb’s website boasts, students need to be actively involved in this town. Scheduling meetings with the mayor should be a priority.

Now more than ever, NIU needs an assertive leader that will step in to do what is best for the campus. Approaching this position with a passive attitude will only mirror past mistakes NIU has made. Unfortunately, there are many problems Baker will inherit: Enrollment numbers are not ideal, state funding is bleak and retaining strong athletic administrators is an issue. We’re not expecting him to fix these problems in the near future. We’re just hoping he is prepared to work.

There is no “clean slate” button. Baker has to be ready to clean up.