NIU instructors, supporters protest in MLK Commons

This is the second protest instructors, supporters and the UPI have organized this year

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Sean Reed

Vicky Books, a kinesiology instructor at NIU, holds up a sign at the protest in the MLK Commons (Sean Reed | Northern Star)

By Madelaine Vikse, Editor-in-Chief

DeKALB — NIU instructors and supporters gathered to protest at 1 p.m. Thursday in the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commons near the Holmes Student Center.

The protest was organized by the NIU Instructors Chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois (UPI), Local 4100. UPI is the union for non-tenured instructors rehired every semester. 

UPI members have been working without a bargaining agreement since it expired June 30, 2021.

Around 20 people showed up to protest. Among the protesters were John Miller, the state-wide legislative and political director of UPI; Keith Nyquist, president of NIU’s UPI chapter; professors; instructors and some of their family members.

“We know that in some departments, they are having difficulty finding instructors to teach this fall because instructors have decided to leave NIU to go find employment elsewhere because they simply can’t afford to work here anymore,” Nyquist said.

Nyquist said a fair contract will help with student retention and success at NIU because if people feel valued in their place of work, students will have even more of a positive experience. 

Protesters drew chalk messages on the ground and handed out flyers to those passing by, including those taking tours of NIU.

Some of the chalk messages read, “INSTRUCTORS MATTER,” “NIU 40 of 43 in Illinois,” “CLASS SIZE MATTERS,” “FAIR CONTRACT NOW” and “FAIR WAGES 4 INSTRUCTORS.”

Flyers handed out highlighted one of the main messages of the protest: “Where does all the money go?” 

The flyers also stated that among Illinois public universities and community colleges, NIU ranks 40 out of 43 in terms of instructor pay.

“We think our demands are reasonable, our salary demand, our latest salary demand this year was just barely over the rate of inflation,” Nyquist said. “Rate of inflation in the last statistic was 9.1%, we’re only asking for 9.5%. The university hasn’t even come close to that.”

This is the second protest this year. The first protest was on April 13 in front of Altgeld Hall, after NIU’s bargaining team left a meeting with UPI.

“The instructors are among the lowest paid in the state of Illinois, it’s time that the institution invest in instructors,” Miller said. “Instructors provide a significant amount of the education to students and yet they are among the lowest paid instructors in the entire state.”

Vicky Books, a kinesiology instructor at NIU, said that she thinks that ever since instructors have been working at NIU that they have been working to try and make sure they’re paid fairly.

“Most of us are here because this is our passion,” Books said.

Miller and Nyquist said that negotiations have continued since the last protest, but that UPI and NIU are at odds on some key issues, the main one being compensation. Miller said this has been an issue for years.

To fix this issue, Miller said NIU needs to come with real offers to the bargaining table.

“NIU’s a great institution, but it’s a great institution because of who works here,” Miller said.

The official statement from NIU reads that the university is actively bargaining with UPI, progress is being made and there is another meeting scheduled for next week. The university said that data used at the protest, namely the 40 out of 43 statistic, is three years old and doesn’t reflect salary increases made since. Additionally, NIU commented that the statistic isn’t directly related to four-year public universities since the data also includes community colleges. 

NIU stated that they are committed to working with UPI to develop a contract.

Click here to view more photos of this protest.