SA discusses NIU Police Department changes, elects next Speaker

By Felix Sarver and Erin Kolb

According to Austin Quick, students need to demand better of NIU.

At the Sunday Student Association (SA) meeting, the SA Senate speaker expressed disappointment with various issues currently affecting the university. Among them were the allegations of NIU employees selling scrap metal from the university and keeping the profits in an account known as the “coffee fund.” Other problems he mentioned included an NIU police officer allegedly withholding evidence in the Andrew Rifkin case. Quick is also not satisfied with the level of support from university leaders on plus/minus grading. He said they sat silently as student leaders pushed for more student input on the policy.

“One of the biggest goals for Vision 2020 is an increased student body while making NIU the most student-centered campus in the Midwest,” Quick said. “Student-centered? That is almost laughable considering the recent events on our campus.”

Quick said despite his problems with NIU, he continues to love it.

“The problem is we have a few bad apples and the apples have been allowed to sit here and rot,” Quick said.

During the meeting, Bill Nicklas, acting director of public safety, came to the Senate to explain the recent changes with the NIU Police Department. He said NIU President John Peters responded boldly to the findings of the 16th Judicial Circuit, which questioned the integrity of a criminal investigation performed by the police department. He said he was appointed acting director of the department on Friday and given full authority to take actions in the best interest of the department and the university.

“Under this framework, the chief will report to the acting director, who presently reports to the president,” Nicklas said.

Nicklas said he appointed Darren Mitchell acting police chief. Mitchell will help assist Nicklas in conducting a management audit of the department to assess all standard operating procedures, protocols and personnel.

Mitchell assured the Senate the university is working to address the various problems affecting it. He said the goal of the NIU Police Department has not changed. People in the department will continue to partner with the community to keep it safe, he said.

“As the acting chief of police and someone who’s worked in this police department for many years–today starts a new day,” Mitchell said. “A new day that I am anxious to get started in.”

The Senate passed a resolution to appoint a member to the Presidential Search Advisory Committee. Cara Prock, SA chief of staff, was removed from the committee and Senator Mike Theodore took her place.

The Senate also voted on a new speaker, as Quick is graduating this semester. Senate Clerk Chad Harris and President Pro Tempore Brian Troutman bowed out of the race, leaving Theodore and senators James Alford and James Zanayed as the remaining nominees. Of the three, Theodore was voted as the new speaker for next semester.

Three senators were absent.