A half-and-half decision

After many weeks of waiting with bated breath, the answer from upon Lowden high concerning the internal/external search debate has been made.

NIU President John La Tourette has decided how two vice presidential positions at NIU should be filled with a half-and-half decision.

Controversy erupted when La Tourette originally announced his intention to fill the positions of provost and vice president for Alumni Development and Relations through internal searches unless given a compelling reason to conduct external searches.

His request was answered and compelling reasons were soon given by the Faculty Senate, which voted for external searches. Now, almost a month past his self-appointed decision deadline, La Tourette has decided to have an external search for provost and an internal search for vice president of Development and Alumni Relations.

La Tourette’s decision is an important one. La Tourette seriously damaged the faculty’s faith in shared governance when he made his original announcement. His decision on the provost position will act as damage control at a university whose faculty seem to be becoming increasingly restless and skeptical of shared governance (now we just have to wait and see what happens to the M.A. in journalism).

However, even though La Tourette’s decision was a good one in the end, the entire controversy should have been avoided. NIU has had a tumultuous year after the Illinois Board of Higher Education’s Priorities, Quality and Productivity initiate and the mass exodus of top level administrators. The last thing the campus needed was a controversy over appointment procedures.

La Tourette surely could have felt out the faculty and realized the kind of opposition he was going to face. NIU, because of the provost appointment debate, now finds itself in a position where it will have to rush through a national search to find a permanent chief academic officer.

La Tourette seems not to have thought his position out, or else he seriously misread the faculty impressions on the issue. He seems to have completely forgotten the fact that the minority pool of applicants for the position would be severely limited in a strictly internal search.

The end result is beneficial to NIU, but shared governance appears to be standing on shaky ground.