Students react to proposal

By Eric Krol

With the College of Law on the chopping block, NIU law students have expressed concerns about their future careers.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education Monday recommended cutting NIU’s law school as part of a process which would streamline higher education.

“It will be extremely troubling to say ‘I’m Jim Mertes, a graduate of the now-defunct NIU School of Law’,” said James Mertes, a third-year law student.

“When I entered NIU’s College of Law, I did so with a promise of a long-lasting reputation of academic excellence, not one with a short life span,” he added.

Other law students agreed. “It would have an effect on my career,” said law student Joe Topinka.

“I’m not really panicking,” Topinka said. The IBHE can only recommend program cuts, and NIU is expected to put up a fight to keep the law program.

One of the IBHE’s reasons for cutting the law school is that there are too many lawyers.

“If there are too many lawyers, NIU didn’t produce all of them,” said Larry Smith, a law student and member of the law school admissions office. “A study showed there was about 860,000 lawyers—we didn’t produce them all.”

Smith said NIU has been turning out good, competent lawyers.

“Our graduates are interested in serving the public,” he said. “Sometimes you have to put something back from where you took it from.”

Smith also said NIU’s law program has gotten progressively tougher. A C-plus here is the equivalent of a B-plus at another school, he said.

Mertes said the IBHE may be deferring to the private schools by cutting back public law school offerings.

Topinka said NIU is at the end of the Interstate 88 research and development corridor and as a result, “NIU needs to be at the forefront of supplying education.”

“When are they going to start closing some prisons instead of law schools?” Smith said.