Committee to discuss board cuts

By Eric Krol

The latest effort to eliminate NIU’s governing board will commence Friday at the Holmes Student Center.

The State House Higher Education Committee will meet from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Friday at the student center’s Illinois Room. The committee will discuss a bill cosponsored by Rep. Brad Burzynski, R-Sycamore, which would dissolve the Board of Regents and Board of Governors.

Burzynski said he is sponsoring the bill to cut a level of bureaucracy and to give NIU a greater level of flexibility in managing its affairs. Burzynski said he estimates $3.9 million could be saved in office costs by eliminating the two boards.

“It is my intention to see what kind of support the bill will receive from the public and the community,” Burzynski said.

However, NIU President John La Tourette was not very receptive to the idea. La Tourette said he didn’t think “it was the right time” to push for a separate governing board. “I am satisfied where we are now,” he said.

“Whenever there is a political campaign, the issue comes up,” La Tourette said. Burzynski is running for the newly-created state senator district.

There have been several efforts in the past to get NIU a separate board, including efforts during the 70s and 80s by former state representative Joe Ebbesen. Burzynski said the bill might pass this time because of the state’s financial crisis. “If we can point to a major savings, it’s only in our favor,” he said.

As for the chances of the bill passing, La Tourette said, “All I’ll say is this issue has been going on since 1957.”

Regents Chairman Brewster Parker said, “Northern is better represented by the BOR than by a separate board.”

University Council Executive Secretary J. Carroll Moody said the UC had not taken a position on the issue since supporting Sen. Pat Welch’s efforts three years ago. While Moody said he still was considering whether to speak before the committee, he declined to comment on whether he will support the new bill.

La Tourette said he will not be testifying at the committee meeting, but will be sending a statement to them. He said he would like the state legislature to let NIU keep the tuition funds it collects instead of sending the money to Springfield.

Burzynski said he would look at specific details about setting up a replacement system for the Regents. Alternatives include having NIU report directly to the Illinois Board of Higher Education or setting up a local board of trustees.