Travel funds fail to meet faculty needs

By Peter Schuh

While some of NIU’s top administrators are spending thousands of dollars and months of time away from the university, the average faculty member might be feeling a little stranded at NIU.

Several top administrators have unanimously agreed that NIU’s faculty members do not receive sufficient travel funds to meet their professional needs.

“Faculty don’t have enough funds for travel,” NIU Provost J. Carroll Moody said. “Having been a department chair, I know there are not enough funds to give every faculty member what they need. I always wish there was more money for faculty travel.”

Faculty members must travel to professional organizations to give papers and keep current on their disciplines so they can be competent teachers and researchers. Travel is also important for faculty seeking tenure.

David Graf, dean of the College of Business, said, “When people are learning and making presentations and doing research they have to meet people and make connections.”

James Norris, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, also agreed that travel “is very important for faculty seeking tenure or promotions.”

Both Norris and Graf have said they try to keep the travel budgets for their office low because they feel it is necessary for deans to allow their faculty as much opportunity as possible to travel.

Travel funds are allocated to a college and broken down into departmental budgets through consultation between the dean and departments. The departments then allocate the funds to faculty, generally on an individual-request basis.

According to Norris and Graf, the average faculty member receives only enough funds to travel to one conference a year, and that travel is often contingent upon the faculty member doing something at the conference, such as delivering a paper.

Stanley Madeja, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts said, “We try to support as much travel as we can in terms of how much money we have. We would like to see our faculty with more support. It’s important that faculty are seen off-campus.”

Charles Stegman, dean of the College of Education, said there has been an attempt in his college to give the faculty more opportunity to travel.

“The faculty certainly do have enough support for one trip,” he said. “In the College of Education we certainly have added more money for travel since I’ve been here.”

For some colleges, such as Liberal Arts and Sciences, travel funds average about $300 per faculty member. Other colleges have slightly more funds per faculty member. For instance, Stegman said the College of Education allocates about $600 for each faculty member.

However, while faculty members’ funds fail to meet their need, NIU’s deans spent between $2,000 and $10,000 each traveling on university funds last year.