Reps. address education issues

By M. Robert Berg

Students came out last night to speak with their elected state representatives, addressing issues including the elimination of the Board of Regents and the Illinois Board of Higher Education’s Priorities, Quality and Productivity (PQP) initiative.

State Rep. David Wirsing (R-DeKalb) and State Sen. Brad Burzynski (R-DeKalb) came to NIU to participate in a town hall meeting sponsored by the Student Association’s Student Political Education and Action Committee (SPEAC).

The first topic discussed was the elimination of the Board of Regents and the restructuring of the university governance system.

“There is legislation already written coming up in the spring session,” Wirsing said. “There is an ongoing debate on a variety of changes in the current governing system.”

Currently NIU is governed by the Board of Regents, which answers to the IBHE.

“We are talking about streamlining the process,” Burzynski said. “This is not a new thing but it came up back in 1984.”

Burzynski mentioned a former representative’s idea that NIU have its own governing board that would allow the university to have a bigger impact in budgeting and other areas instead of having it dictated to them.

This view conflicted with that of the SA, according to SA President Abe Andrzejewski. “We are in support of the current Regency system based on our representation on the governing board,” he said. “We are concerned with the pressure being put on the Board of Regents considering PQP.”

Students’ interests are protected better by the current system than if NIU had its own governing board, Andrzejewski said. “I think I’m speaking for a lot of students on campus when I say we still favor the Regency system.”

One idea floating around in Springfield was to have NIU governed out of the University of Illinois in Champaign, an idea Wirsing said wouldn’t be an improvement over the Regency system.

“If everything was governed out of Champaign, I wouldn’t be so sure that we had moved in the right direction (in restructuring the system),” Wirsing said.

PQP was also discussed by the two legislators.

Burzynski had some reservations about the process of the PQP initiative, and the lack of communication between the university and the governing boards.

“My concern is that there wasn’t a dialogue before Monday between the Board of Higher Education, the governing system and the universities,” he said.

Wirsing also said the process was taking a negative toll on the universities. “(The process) has caused undue stress and disruption in teaching students, which is what universities are here for,” he said.

“PQP has become adversarial instead of working toward a common goal,” Burzynski said.

If NIU had its own governing board, the PQP process may have taken place under more ideal circumstances, Wirsing said.

“In a perfect world, if Northern had its own board, the Board of Higher Education would sit down with Northern’s board and say we have X amount of dollars available, and communicate that way,” Wirsing said.

“It would not be an entity making a decision and sending a memo, with another entity sending a memo back.”