Program, NIU’s role discussed

By Jami Peterson

NIU President John La Tourette and Business and Industry Service representatives told Faculty Senate members Wednesday exactly what role NIU played in a business program which resulted in a recently dismissed lawsuit.

At the last FS meeting, faculty members requested an explanation of the hiring of six former Management Association of Illinois (MAI) employees to B&IS last summer and what functions they filled.

MAI, an organization that represents seminars in supervisory and management training, claimed earlier this month the six employees secretly negotiated with NIU and took clients and files. The lawsuit was dismissed in a circuit court. However, MAI is appealing the case in an Illinois Court of Appeals.

La Tourette said the employees were brought in as part of a national effort to improve the quality of the work force by sharpening professional leadership skills through seminars and conferences. “(The project) is moving along the line of what the (B&IS) center has been involved in historically,” La Tourette said.

However, Robert Lane, professor of Operations Management and Information Systems, said he disagreed with some of the policy research areas the project covers, such as forklift training. “It’s one heck of a reach to use the words ‘policy research’ to justify forklift training,” he said. “Their charter seems to have no limits.”

With the university’s budget woes, Lane questioned where the money for the project came from. If the project does well, NIU is lucky, he said. “But if it doesn’t make a profit, we don’t have the money to put a print press in the basement of Lowden Hall,” he added.

However, La Tourette said the project was funded through non-appropriated funds used for sales and services activities and grants. From the beginning, he said, the project’s budget was set up based on the revenue the project would bring in. Therefore, the program placed no burden on the university, he said.

“There is no mystery here,” La Tourette said. “It is paying for itself. This is kind of a win-win situation.”

James Norris, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in which the program was placed, said the project only will benefit the university. “We could be in a leadership role in this area around the nation,” he said.

However, Philosophy Professor Sherman Stanage questioned why the university hired outside employees instead of using faculty members already at the university.

Also, he said he believes faculty members should have been informed of the project from the beginning. “We’ve got to unconceal the concealed and discover the covered,” Stanage said.

English Professor James Giles also said the miscommunication is inexcusable.

Student Association Preston Came said students were left out of the issue from the beginning. “In my heart I believe this university is here for higher education, not as a vocational training school,” Came said.