Editorial: Dreessen deserves to be reprimanded


Angela Dreessen is the subject after controversy after the director of student involvement and leadership development sent a group of NIU Cares Day volunteers to paint her house.

By The Editorial Board

People expect a lot from their leaders. People, understandably, demand even more from leaders who are tasked with teaching people how to lead. These expectations make it all the more disappointing when a leader really drops the ball.

On Saturday, the Chicago Tribune reported that Angela Dreessen, director of Student Involvement and Leadership Development (SILD) had her home, 918 Dawn Court, painted by student volunteers during NIU Cares Day 2010.

In an “unrelated” move, NIU announced Friday that Dreessen would no longer be director of SILD; instead, she’ll be “reassigned” to the director of Off-Campus and Nontraditional Student Services. (The announcement is, of course, fully unaffected by the publication Tribune’s article.)

Sorry, guys. That’s not good enough.

In our minds, Dreessen should not be allowed to direct anything at this university. Her lack of judgment and blatant disregard for ethics have proven that she should, at the very least, be demoted.

Dreessen has benefited personally from the use of NIU resources; she said she paid for the supplies, but NIU provided transportation, lunch and T-shirts to all NIU Cares Day participants…all paid for by student dollars.

That’s a clear breach of ethics. In return, she’s not fired. Not demoted. Not even, as far as we can tell, officially reprimanded. No, she gets to move into another (lower-profile) director position. She still manages people and she still serves as a leader to students.

We’ll also admit that we’re slightly confused – on Wednesday, just days before the Tribune ran their piece on Dreessen, the Star spoke to her about the housework. In that conversation, Dreessen made her “lapse in judgment” seem downright altruistic – something she had to do in order to benefit her neighbors who would go without if she didn’t step up. In Saturday’s Tribune piece, she’s all apologies. What gives?

Forgive us if we don’t entirely buy the company line, but the story being told is, frankly, full of holes.

Dreessen told the Star that she offered up her house to be worked on after she failed to garner enough support in her neighborhood to make the location viable (because victims of natural disasters have to be strong-armed into accepting free labor); this is a blatant contradiction from what she told the Tribune, which was that staff (who she declined to name) suggested her home as a work site.

We’d also like to point out the kind of work done on Dreessen’s house compared to the other two locations on her block. One house had lawn work done, and another had trenches for flood prevention dug. Dreessen? She had her house painted.

Dreessen made $71,760 a year as SILD director. Jill Zambito, the current director of Commuter and Non-Traditional Student Services, made $28,560 a year.

Will Dreessen take a pay cut? If not, will the new SILD director? If neither takes a pay cut, where will this overall increase in salary, a difference of around $40,000 a year, come from?

Was Dreessen reprimanded in some way? Hemphill told the Tribune that the issue “had been dealt with.” Dealt with how? The university says her reassignment isn’t in response to her clear ethics breach, so how was she reprimanded? Was she? If not, why not?

If NIU had a record of each NIU Cares Day 2010 work site for a full year, why did they only learn about it recently?

Why did Dreessen and Hemphill wait until the Tribune approached them before admitting the housework was a “lapse in judgment?”

The university’s handling of this case is a lack of judgement in and of itself. Because in the very best light, NIU looks incompetent for not demoting Dreessen. In the very worst light, it tells people that NIU looks the other way when it comes to corruption.