Editorial: Peters shouldn’t candy-coat university finances

In a Wednesday Northern Star article titled “Win or lose, Doeren was guaranteed a raise,” President John Peters made an interesting statement regarding NIU football coach Dave Doeren’s contract extension.

“NIU is not in a poor financial situation, and again, the contract allows us to secure a highly-regarded coach for years to come within the constraints of the athletics budget,” Peters said.

The Northern Star Editorial Board doesn’t doubt that athletics planned for Doeren’s raise. However, the first half of the quote made us do a double-take.

“NIU is not in a poor financial situation.”

We beg to differ.

For years, NIU’s budget has been at the forefront of discussion. It seems like the university never has enough money, and the projects and problems continue to stack up.

At Wednesday’s University Council meeting, Peters said the state owes NIU $47.3 million, and although it will pay the full amount, some funds may not be received until next year.

Peters also said NIU has not received $11 million in spring MAP grants, but it should soon.

NIU is also in the midst of a hiring freeze, which Peters introduced in 2009. Peters also “reduced summer operating hours and winter break operating days and deferred non-emergency maintenance,” according to a Feb. 9, 2011, Northern Star article.

Speaking of maintenance, a Sept. 11, 2011, Northern Star article states that NIU has over $400 million in deferred maintenance, meaning all facility issues are put into a queue. In that queue is Zulauf Hall’s leaky 10th floor, which will be repaired “eventually,” according to the article.

And if the IGPA’s proposal, which Peters supports, passes, NIU would have to contribute to the pension fund for its faculty and staff.

Pair all this with a steadily declining enrollment (25,439 in fall 2006 versus 22,990 in fall 2011, according to a Sept. 8 Northern Star article) and a state in economic turmoil, and Peters’ quote just doesn’t make sense.

We understand why administrators are idealistic; it’s beneficial to have long-term goals (like Vision 2020) to unite the campus and push it forward. However, these same administrators have to be honest when talking about the now. And in his comment, we know President Peters wasn’t being entirely truthful.

As students who pay thousands of dollars each semester to learn at this university, we deserve the truth. We don’t deserve a sob story one minute and a reassuring “everything’s OK” the next. And that blind reassurance definitely should not come in a conversation about a coach’s nearly $49,000 raise.

The bottom line is this: Don’t lie to us. We see through the candy-coated statements, and we don’t appreciate deception. Next time, give it to us straight. We want honest answers, not PR ones.