Faculty airs complaints

By Jami Peterson

Faculty members aired their complaints Wednesday about the Business and Industry Services program which resulted in a recently dismissed lawsuit.

In a packed Faculty Senate conference room, NIU President John La Tourette and B&IS representatives were on hand to defend and explain the hiring of six former Management Association of Illinois employees to B&IS.

A recent lawsuit, which claimed the six employees secretly negotiated with NIU and snatched clients and files, was dismissed in a circuit court. However, MAI is appealing the case in an Illinois Court of Appeals.

College of Business Dean Richard Brown said the six employees’ functions, which include working as a consultant company in hiring groups of employees to train members of other firms, do not relate to the things NIU should be teaching. “They’re doing training programs in areas unrelated to the university,” Brown said.

The program offers workshops and seminars in areas such as total quality management, supervising training, microcomputer training, electronics, first aid and safety training and forklift training.

Brown said he disagrees with the ethics used in funding this type of a consultant firm. Although the lawsuit was dismissed, he said, its effects on NIU’s reputation as a university of excellence are still lingering.

“It’s hard to take a research institute seriously when you do forklift training in the institute,” he said. “The issue could further blur the already fuzzy image of NIU.”

Brown said he agrees with some of the projects’ functions, but the service the project provides should parallel research and provide training skills, not be professionally oriented.

However, Charles Trott, director of the Center for Governmental Studies, said the project has made a significant amount of money in the five months it has been running through the training skills it provides. The six employees “are paying for everything,” he said.

Political Science Professor Lawrence Finkelstein said NIU should have been more critical in choosing to fund this project. Faculty members should be involved in the selection of this project, he said.

“The university is here first and foremost for the academics, students and faculty,” he said.

Associate Professor of Finance Richard Dowen said there should have been better communication within the university. “We need to set up something within the governmental structure (of the university) to determine whether to grow externally or internally,” he said.