Regent attendance disputed

By Jerry Lawrence

Two members of NIU’s governing board, the Board of Regents, have attended less than half of the last 11 public meetings of the full board.

Regents Joseph Ebbesen and Carol Burns have not attended any of the Regents meetings since December 1992, according to board-approved minutes of the meetings.

Ebbesen said his last three absences have been because of personal reasons. “And when I say personal, I mean personal,” Ebbesen said.

Ebbesen said his absences had “absolutely, positively, without a doubt, nothing to do” with his support of eliminating the Regents as the governing board of NIU, Illinois State University in Normal and Sangamon State University in Springfield.

While Ebbesen, a DeKalb retiree, could not attend a March 18 meeting of the Regents at NIU, he did travel to Chicago to testify before a state Senate committee where he advocated the abolition of the Regents in late February.

Ebbesen has a history of supporting the abolition of the Regents. As a state legislature in the late 1970s, he sponsored legislation to eliminate the Regents.

Ebbesen now supports a higher education governance reform plan that would replace the Regents with individual governing boards for NIU and ISU and place SSU under the jurisdiction of the University of Illinois board of trustees.

He said his support of such an initiative does not come from his position as a Regent but from his views as a former state legislator and his higher education experience.

Ebbesen said he did not know if his personal problems would clear up before the next meeting of the Regents in May, and would not say whether they will interfere further with his attendance at Regents meetings.

“All that I am going to say is this. I will let the university know when I am going to be in attendance at the meetings,” he said.

Ebbesen said he has no plans to resign from the board even though, as he admitted, his personal life is interfering with his attendance at Regents meetings.

At the last meeting of the Regents Ebbesen attended in December of 1992, he voted against the design and budget approval of NIU’s parking garage because he disagreed with the location on which the garage would be built and the traffic problems he thought it would create.

The governance reform is based on the Governor’s Task Force on Higher Education’s final report which was released in January. The task force was chaired by Lt. Gov. Bob Kustra and Arthur Quern, chair of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

Neither Ebbesen nor Burns have attended a Regents committee meeting or board meeting since the report was released.

Burns said her absences have been caused by previous engagements related to her position as vice president of a mutual fund company, her membership on the national Association of Governing Boards of colleges and universities and her work with Caterpillar Investment Services in Peoria.

Burns said her absences had nothing to do with the governance reform issue and she said she supports the Regents as a governing board without reservation.

Burns said she has kept in contact with the Regents during the months she has not attended meetings and has participated in teleconferences with other Regents.

Burns said she has no plans to resign from her position on the board. Burns served as regents chair from 1985 until 1990. Her current term on the board began in 1989 and lasts until 1995.