NIU President John La Tourette sure has been taking it on the chin a lot lately.
First of all, the Board of Regents gives him what amounted to a $10,000 raise. It is not the duty of a mere student-columnist to debate whether the raise was deserved. But the fact that faculty only received a $150 pittance probably did not go over too well. After all, hell (if indeed hell exists) hath no fury like a professor screwed, or something like that.
However, the major problem seems to be the pseudo-corporate takeover NIU attempted last fall which has resulted in a $1 million lawsuit against the university. For those who missed it, the skinny is this: NIU has this little side business, a cottage industry, if you will. NIU Business and Industry Services trains business types on the latest technology. Well, so does this non-profit group called MAI. Apparently, six employees of MAI decided to jump ship to NIU. They brought a lot of clients with them and allegedly brought a few handy rolodexes as well. The question is whether NIU tampered with these people to get them to jump ship. MAI obviously feels that NIU did.
Anyway, La Tourette has been criticized for this venture. Some feel NIU’s role is to provide education, not to play J.R. Ewing the Corporate Raider, especially when one considers we floated BIS about a million smackers to launch this project.
Regardless of all the talk, I don’t think La Tourette is at fault here. A lack of state funding and increasing demands have put a ton of pressure on university presidents to get money from outside sources. And seeing how NIU buttsurfs everyone while they’re here, no one wants to donate money to the alumni association once they graduate.
So, all La Tourette was doing was responding to reality—when you look at the Reaganomics-induced recession this nation is mired in, NIU and higher education won’t be receiving more money from the state for a long time. With all of the special interest groups on campus pressuring La Tourette for money, he really has to become innovative in order to pacify these people.
The BIS deal is going to pay off because NIU is going to be in the black on it in the first year of operation. The talk is that we get 50 percent of all the revenue these six employees take in. That’s a welcome return on our investment when one considers the results of La Tourette’s first gamble—intercollegiate athletics. Yes, our trusted leader bet the farm, or at least 5 percent of our student tuition money, on building a winning sports program. Of course, this was good in theory—we could have gotten big money from television, ticket sales and merchandising. However, due to numerous factors, especially the fact that being a state school, we can’t pull big pay increases out of the sky to reward good coaches, the program never took off. Sure, we nabbed a few bucks for last year’s NCAA basketball appearance, but other than that, zip.
So, before the Faculty Senate burns La Tourette in effigy, maybe they ought to sit back and analyze the situation. Faulting the man for trying to bring more money into the school certainly won’t solve the problem of giving them the salary increases they so richly deserve.