The Basement Is No Place for Us

Every now and again while reading a newspaper or any periodical there’s an article about Northeastern Illinois University. Northeastern was ranked at the top among other ethnically diverse universities in the Midwest. I have also witnessed articles that speak of the fact that students who graduated from NEIU did so with relatively little debt. When I read articles that boast positive information about Northeastern, it makes me proud.
My sentiment is that the public deserves to know that there is a quality education available that will not overwhelm them with the cost. It seems deserving that this should be coupled with the fact that the Northeastern community appears to recognize the true beauty of diversity, or maybe not.
As I reflected on the information made public about NEIU, there was something noticeably absent. The diverse student population does not exist merely because of the ethnic diversity among students, which paints only half the picture. To be more adequate, there should always be mention of the generational diversity that exists because of the Nontraditional Degree Program at NEIU. Before I came across an e-mail that was addressed to “The University Community,” I would have never imagined the possibility that the administration may not be so proud of the Nontraditional Degree Program.
In this e-mail it was stated that, “we have identified the space for the new resource centers; they will be located in B-147.” Clearly there is no mention of the Nontraditional Degree Program which is already housed in B-147. Astonished, I asked where the Non- traditional Degree Program would be located and found that it would be in the basement! There appears to be a message in these actions that is becoming quite clear. Someone has made the tragic mistake of imposing a humiliating act on a program that has been a staple of Northeastern since 1973. This implies that we are a suspect unit in the NEIU community, which does not deserve to be seen. There are also strong implications that the Nontraditional Degree Program is being taken for granted or, even worse, phased out. To break the spirits of the nontraditional students and faculty by moving them to the basement is in bad taste and lacks merit.
The location which houses the Nontraditional Degree Program is ideal, in light of the fact that the program consist of adult professionals, mature adults who are parents and students adding to previous education. This is a proven program that serves over 300 students per semester. We are talking about one of the largest academic programs on the main campus. The Nontraditional Degree Program has graduated thousands of highly motivated students since its inception. It is a sad day in academia when a program of this magnitude is to be hidden for reasons unknown. The staff of professionals in the program is an informed, resourceful and effective group and they have been instrumental in the success of numerous students.
It is largely due to the Nontraditional Degree Program that I have been able to excel in my studies. I can remember the day that my advisor said to me, “Embrace the math and don’t fight it.” I could not have imagined going to the basement to explain that I was intimidated by math; I would have just gone home. The following semester she walked me next door and hand delivered me to the McNair Scholars Program. This was the nurturing that I needed as a student who was returning to academia after ten years. Today, I am a double major, a McNair Scholar and have a grade point average of 3.67. I speak for numerous nontraditional students when I say that returning to academia causes a broad range of emotions. When it is time to be interviewed for entry, the location is critical to the welcoming process. In the event that a student is uncertain about a decision and needs to sit with their advisor, they have the right to feel like an authentic part of the NEIU community. We are proud to be seen coming out of a central location and feeling as important to the university as any other student, in any other program.
Northeastern Illinois University has been an educational asset to many of us in the Nontraditional Degree Program. In return, we have reciprocated by being among the best students in the university, in one of the best programs within the university. All that we ask is to be shown that you are as proud of us as we are of you. We refuse to accept being hid- den in the basement or phased out. Our hope is that you will amend this situation with the integrity that it deserves.

By Rodney Allen – NEIU Non Traditional Degree Program Student

Published: Monday, February 6, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 03:02