Regent support ay be wavering


NIU President John La Tourette’s support for the Board of Regents as NIU’s governing board might be softening.

Now that recommendations to grant the Illinois Board of Higher Education’s (IBHE) program-cutting authority have been separated from recommendations to eliminate the Regents, La Tourette might be singing a different tune.

Wednesday, La Tourette said he would neither make a choice between the Regents and an individual governing board for NIU, nor would he voice an opinion on the matter.

Last month, La Tourette offered a different statement. On Jan. 20, La Tourette said, “My greatest fear is that if (Lt. Gov. Bob) Kustra succeeds in this venture, what we’ll end up with are emasculated boards that are meaningless. If you give me a choice, I want a strong board for NIU, and we appear to have a very strong board with the Board of Regents.”

Kustra is the co-chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Higher Education which has recommended the elimination of the Regents.

Wednesday, La Tourette said, “I’m not going to make any choice between the two because this is a legislative matter.”

Without the recommendation to grant program-cutting authority to the IBHE, La Tourette said it appeared as if an individual governing board for NIU would have the same power as the Regents.

“This report has fewer complications in the sense that it recommends the individual governing boards have the same power as the Board of Governors or the Board of Regents,” La Tourette said Wednesday.

La Tourette made the first statement when many higher education officials were concerned that increased program-cutting authority for the IBHE would be included in recommendations to eliminate the Regents who currently hold that power.

He made the second statement after the Task Force issued its final report on Jan. 27 which did not contain the recommendation.

La Tourette said the issue is now a legislative matter because the contents of the Task Force report are being converted into legislation by Lt. Gov. Bob Kustra and Gov. Jim Edgar. One of Kustra’s aides said the legislation could be ready this spring, with individual university governing boards set in place by the fall.

La Tourette said passage of the legislation will be dependent on support from Democrats in the state legislature. He said the report is primarily a Republican initiative and it is not clear where the Democrats stand on the matter.

Both Gov. Jim Edgar, who endorsed the report the day it was released, and Kustra are Republicans.

While the report did not recommend the program cutting authority be granted immediately to the IBHE, it did say such authority might have to be granted if the individual governing boards do not adhere to IBHE guidelines in the evaluation of programs.

The authority had been recommended in a June 1992 report by the task force which stated that the state might have to, “strengthen the role of the IBHE in the review and approval of new programs of instruction but more importantly, add the authority to eliminate those not academically or economically justified.”

Its absence from the report might be linked to a legislative resolution passed last month. The resolution stated that the IBHE would not be granted legislative authority to cut programs.

The Regents govern NIU, Illinois State University in Normal and Sangamon State University in Springfield.