As NIU President Lisa Freeman approaches her first full year as NIU’s official president, it is important to acknowledge the progress that has been made in mending the relationship between students and the administration.
Prior to Freeman’s presidency, former president Doug Baker and his administration created a divide between the administration and NIU students. This was a result of lack of transparency and improper spending allegations which came out before Baker resigned in 2017, according to a 2017 Northern Star article.
By attending events, opening her office to students and building relationships with student organization leaders, Freeman has begun to bridge the gap created by Baker and his administration.
Student loyalty is increasing in its value in higher education, as it leads to financial stability for universities; trust is one of the founding pillars of such loyalty, according to a study by Sergio W. Carvalho and Márcio de Oliveira Mota. Trust among higher education personnel and management ranked highly in the assessment, demonstrating students find comfort in being able to trust those running their institutions.
Having a president’s students recognize and feel they can turn to creates a sense of community deeper than that which can be achieved with a faceless administration. Distrust grows when a community feels as though it has no say in the decisions being thrust upon it, but Freeman has enabled students to have a voice and made it clear she intends to listen.
By being more present in student life, Freeman has developed a level of trust. This trust is further developed by Freeman’s commitment to transparency, enhanced by her efforts to have regular conversations with students.
Inviting students to her office and attending events such as Spring 2019’s Pizza with the Presidents has demonstrated a level of effort students can recognize. These efforts open up communication lines and allow for a dialogue between university officials and students that was not previously present.
Freeman continues to demonstrate her devotion to being part of student life by following the same methodology she did last year: attending events. In addition to Welcome Week events, Freeman was also in attendance at Saturday’s home opening football game. Where students go, Freeman follows.
In Freeman’s presidential goals for last semester, she vowed to increase transparency between students, faculty and the university. While mending relationships takes time, she has made strides in bringing the administration closer to this goal.