Develop policies

Your inaccurately titled story, “Report deems NIU Judicial Code Unfair” totally misrepresents the annual report of the Ombudsman. (Fortunately, the case was more clearly stated in your editorial the same day). The issue raised by the Ombudsmen, Tim Griffin, is that apart from the Student Judicial Code, which defines standards and procedures regarding the conduct of students alone, NIU lacks any comparable policies concerning the professional responsibility and conduct of faculty, staff and administration. He aptly observes that students are “being held to behavioral expectations … much more stringent than those for the faculty and staff.” Mr. Griffin offers an opinion, with which I am very much in agreement, “that faculty and staff have an ethical responsibility to model appropriate professional behaviors.”

NIU Bylaws describe procedures concerning “unfair treatment or dissatisfaction with actions or conduct by administration, faculty, or staff which violates university rules or policies, adversely affects working conditions, or violates the rights of a faculty member.” There are also procedures for redressing violations of a faculty member’s academic freedom. These policies concerning faculty rights, and conduct by various (nonstudent) members of our community, are not presently supported by complete or coherent statements defining these issues. This is why the Faculty Rights and Responsibilities Committee of the Faculty Senate articulated this objective as an agenda item for the current year. Among the Senate’s central purposes, stated in its bylaws and those of the university, are: “to define and establish standards and procedures of accountability concerning professional faculty ethics and responsibilities; and to promote adherence to those standards and procedures.” In the fourth year of the Senate’s existence, this purpose has yet to be achieved.

The statistics contained in Mr. Griffin’s report and the experiences of many members of the university community confirm that the principle articulated in the preamble to NIU’s constitution, “respect for the intrinsic dignity of each member of the university community,” requires attention. The most effective way for NIU to recognize and promote such priorities is by developing appropriate policies. We might then expect a greater understanding, and more frequent observance, of those principles which would enhance the civility of our academic community.

Robert Fleisher

Associate Professor