OPS shouldn’t be blinded

Talk about not getting things off on the right foot.

NIU President John La Tourette opened the first meeting of the Committee on Organization, Productivity and Salaries (OPS) Friday by telling them that a recent report issued by the Illinois Board of Higher Education was all hogwash.

The report is one all universities should pay close attention to, but La Tourette already has thrown it out the window. The report states that money spent on instruction during the 1980s stayed flat while money spent on research skyrocketed.

This committee is supposed to be looking for ways to chop the university’s budget and protect it from more fiscal disaster. It’s a committee that, despite NIU’s bureaucracy, is needed.

However, the president skillfully is trying to divert the committee’s attention away from an area of obvious excess, once again making students the victims of the supposed higher education their taxes support.

So far, curbing research hasn’t been brought up. But President

La Tourette did inform the committee that salaries around the university are low and don’t compare well with other schools. Apparently, salaries aren’t a place to cut.

When will the administration of this university and others—Stanley Ikenberry, president of the University of Illinois, also has thrown out the IBHE report—remember the mission of a university should be educating its students?

Granted, research indirectly, inevitably and eventually serves as an educator but not for the people paying tuition today.

Student Association President Preston Came is right to say that students are forced to pay more tuition by not being able to get the classes they need to graduate, therefore adding years to the life of their schooling. If student wallets must be hit, a tuition increase now might be helpful.

Instead, the committee still is instructed to cut—not find places to add—and now is considering trimming enrollment to make less classes more available because of less students to take them. This newspaper long has supported shrinking the student body, but for reasons of improving NIU’s quality, not chopping its programs and skimping on money.

It’s refreshing to see athletics on the list of possible cuts. But what about some of NIU’s classes which most students term “blow-offs?” What about expanding NIU to other cities while ignoring the DeKalb campus?

Faraday II is the first talk of real campus improvement—building classrooms and labs—in a long, long time. It’s about time things like sculptures and cement repair in the King Memorial Commons take a back seat to academics, although it seems like so many classrooms are empty, anyway.

President La Tourette must be commended for putting the committee together, but he is wrong to try to sway its eyes away from such a flabby area of spending. NIU professors, who stand to benefit from this committee as it looks for ways to increase their pay, should put a stop to research and do some teaching.

OPS should look to cut areas of waste, not places already under strain. They shouldn’t be too hard to find.