Reaction from NIU’s faculty leaders to a proposal by the Governor’s Task Force on Higher Education to eliminate the Board of Regents is a mix of caution, optimism and concern.
The task force’s report, released Wednesday, would replace both the Regents and the Board of Governors with individual governing boards for the universities they oversee.
The recommendation has been received with mixed emotions by several faculty members.
“It’s probably a mixed situation,” said Norman Magden, executive secretary of the University Council. “On the one hand, there is the possibility of having our own board and our own authority, and on the other, there is the possibility of centralizing power under the Illinois Board of Higher Education.”
James Norris, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences said he was wary of the proposal because of the power the IBHE might wield in the new system.
“For a long time I have felt that we would be as well off or better off with our own board,” he said. “But I am very reluctant to see a board put in place with very little authority.”
Norris added that if NIU were guaranteed a strong board he would be for the switch.
Magden agreed with this sentiment. “If the board had a lot of decision-making ability, I think I would be all for it,” he said.
However, Gordon Dorn, art professor and president of the Illinois chapter of the American Association of University Professors, did not hold a similar conviction.
“I don’t know what a strong board would be, really,” he said. “I don’t know if Northern would be strong enough to hold its own board. If you have more boards you have less links to legislators and elected representatives.”
There was some agreement with the Task Force’s statement that the proposal would bring more accountability to board decisions and a streamlined system.
“It has some nice aspects to it,” Norris said. “It could meet here every time and their presence would be better known.”
Robert Lane, professor of Operations, Management and Information Systems and member of the University Council, said he would be for a strong NIU board.
However, Lane said, “I can picture a streamlined system filled with a bunch of Quern’s cousins that passes everything in five minutes and leaves.”
In regard to the Regents, he said, “They’ve been at best useless and at worst damaging.”