The University Council passed a proposal April 3 to discontinue the President’s Staff as an administrative committee in favor of a group that may not be required to hold open meetings.Catch that Divine Passive? There's no explanation of why the committee ceased to function. There is this.
The proposed amendments to Articles 6.5 and 18.1 of the NIU Constitution would remove the President’s Staff because the committee “is not currently a functioning committee of the University,” according to the April 3 University Council meeting agenda.
NIU President Lisa Freeman said she introduced the amendment because the language in the constitution is outdated and inaccurate.Anybody else notice that nowhere in that excerpt does the new president or anybody else recognize who the true stewards of the university are?
“I brought the items forward because those two items from the constitution and bylaws are out of date,” Freeman said. “While we don’t always remove archaic language from our governing documents, a particular item that labeled the President’s Staff as a body that was a liaison to University Council was inaccurate and was causing confusion in the community.”
Freeman said in place of the President’s Staff is the Senior Leadership Roundtable.
The group is made up of administrators and deans that meet informally to “advise the president on matters pertaining to internal university affair,” according to the agenda.
Freeman said the goal of the group is to build better working relationships between leaders at the university.
“My goal with the roundtable is really to build a collaborative spirit and to get leaders of major divisions of the university to be comfortable sitting at a table with one another,” Freeman said.
MAKE FACULTY GOVERNANCE GREAT AGAIN!
There's at least one colleague who gets it.
Biological science professor Virginia Naples said the faculty isn’t pleased with the decision because it affects transparency between governing bodies and the community.It's worth having proper faculty governance on general principles, rather than simply as an extra safeguard in a university with some bad actors as presidents. Johann Neem's "The Subtle Erosion of Academic Freedom" tackles some larger topics, and yet, at heart, the absence of faculty governance and a faculty with institutional memory doing the governing matters a lot.
“The change to the NIU Constitution and Bylaws is a unilateral reduction in transparency on the part of the administration,” Naples said. “As are many faculty, I am unalterably opposed to this change.”
Freeman said the university asked the Attorney General’s office and the Public Access Council if the meetings of the Senior Leadership Roundtable are subject to the Open Meetings Act, but has yet to receive a decision.
“We do believe in transparency,” Freeman said. “But we also believe very firmly that these very informal staff meetings don’t meet the definition of an open meeting because it doesn’t make policy.”
Naples said some of her concerns are based on NIU’s history of university leadership. She said NIU needs more supervision than other Illinois universities.
Naples cited the resignation of University Presidents Clyde Windfield in 1986 and Doug Baker in 2017 as to why transparency matters at NIU.
The most obvious and well-known threat to academic freedom is the decline of tenure and shared governance at many established institutions. Adjunct faculty members lack the protections, and thus the influence, that tenure offers. But even tenured faculty are losing power and authority as administrators, responding to legislators’ demands for faster and more vocational degrees, exert significant pressure to revise the curriculum.Yup.