Editorial: Freeman’s future NIU goals encouraging

NIU+President+Dr.+Lisa+Freeman+sits+at+desk+April+19+in+the+Board+of+Trustees+room+during+an+interview+with+the+Northern+Star+Editorial+Board.+

Patrick Murphy | Northern Star

NIU President Dr. Lisa Freeman sits at desk April 19 in the Board of Trustees room during an interview with the Northern Star Editorial Board.

The Northern Star Editorial Board sat down with NIU President Lisa Freeman April 19 to discuss a variety of topics, including what the future looked like for Freeman and NIU in her new contract. 

The job of the university is to provide a positive impact on students and society through teaching, learning and engagement, Freeman said. The Board believes with the set of goals Freeman has set out for the near future, Freeman is taking NIU’s values in stride. 

Some focuses Freeman touched on were being there for students and valuing their feedback, incorporating faculty mentoring, establishing implicit bias training for the university’s hiring committee, anti-racism training and closing the equity gap. 

“We have wonderful students who come here, who are committed to not only learning and preparing themselves to be leaders but in sharing their ideas with each other,” Freeman said.  “We have an opportunity to present the diversity of our student body and the fact that we are a research university that’s responsible for creating knowledge, to show the rest of the world how to listen to each other, how to use our voices, and to actually change the value of looking at a problem through a variety of lenses.”

In order to capitalize on making diverse hires, implicit bias training was mandated for the hiring committee to understand the lived experiences of colleagues, Freeman said. 

“We did educate our search committees about implicit bias, and ask(ed) them to think about being inclusive in the candidate pools that they consider,” Freeman said. “We looked at where and how we advertise our faculty and staff positions and realize that if we advertise in more diverse publications, we would potentially attract more diverse faculty.”

Through a hiring strategy that emphasizes diversity, there is a strong push to further mentoring programs for new hires, especially people of color, Freeman said. Eventually, the faculty becomes mentors and speakers for what they care about.  

We are setting up anti-racism training. The training is currently in development and when offered, it will be encouraged, but not as mandated as some of the other trainings, Freeman said. 

The Board believes anti-racism training should be required like other trainings considering how diverse NIU’s campus is and the education it can provide for incoming and current students and faculty. 

One of Freeman’s goals was closing the equity gap for students. Various tactics have been used to help close those gaps like strong cultural resource centers, better access to tutors, readjusting billing cycles and making scholarships more readily available, Freeman said. 

Freeman was genuine, and the Board was encouraged with Freeman’s plans going forward because they align with the values set at NIU. The Board would still like to see anti-racism training mandated and, once safe, for Freeman to bring back office hours dedicated to sitting down with students. 

If there are any questions that the student body and faculty think should be brought to Freeman’s attention, submit them at editor@northernstar.info.