Students and Faculty Need More Than a Voice

Dan Maurer, News Editor

Since coming to Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) in the all of 2022, I have been privileged, or cursed, with covering the downward spiral of NEIU, and the faculty’s attempts to save the university from successive waves of incompetence across multiple administrations and makeups of the Board of Trustees. Just in the last few months, the tensions have bubbled over. Both President Gloria J. Gibson and the Board of Trustees suffered votes of no-confidence in their leadership from the Faculty Assembly. On Jan. 24, 2023, faculty and students protested and interrupted a budget town hall meeting hosted by the administration, demanding accountability for a proposed reorganization that President Gibson will not be around to see the results of. The Board of Trustees has already announced they will not renew her contract when it expires at the end of June.

One does not have to look hard to find ample evidence that the administration and the Board of Trustees have not been able to solve the crisis here at NEIU. However, baked into this university is a deep well of knowledge, ideas and expertise. NEIU has many professors and instructors eager to bend their minds to the task of improving our university. NEIU is known for training the teachers of the future through the Daniel L. Goodwin College of Education (GCOE), with faculty and staff who are “dedicated to excellence and innovation in education and professional program preparation,” according to its mission statement. The College of Business and Technology (CBT), on its website, says its faculty “are qualified, either by holding a Ph.D. in their field or as a recognized business practitioner.” Between the two colleges, these are people who have studied and practiced the skills needed to run an organization, such as our own university, and have done so to the point that we trust them to teach the next generation. Who better to assist with administering our own university? And what better advertisement for our university than to be able to say we trust our teachers to the point that they have an active role in the administration of the university, practicing what they are teaching.

NEIU is also known for its commitment to social justice and to serving disadvantaged groups. The positioning of El Centro near Logan Square, and the Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies (CCICS) in Bronzeville are physical manifestations of that commitment. Exemplifying those ideals within the administration of the university should include more than just advisory input from faculty and students. Our faculty are both at the forefront of NEIU’s mission, and the last line of defense for it. Without our teachers and their expertise, there would be no university, and the same goes for our students. Thus, these two groups deserve a substantive seat at the governing table and active roles in administration. At a time when NEIU has suffered through the incompetence of multiple administrations, and Board of Trustee members have blatantly questioned the commitment and competence of the student body, only the faculty have stood firm in supporting us as students.

Granting faculty and students a role in governance yields multiple advantages. Currently, faculty and students only serve an advisory role at the university. The only power either group has is the power of the megaphone, calling out to the world through confidence votes and interviews with media outlets, like WGN-TV, both of which are absolutely necessary, but also may serve to scare away the very students we are struggling to enroll. While it would not help immediately, giving faculty and students access to the levers of power would allow those key groups to help solve future crises in-house, rather than getting the media involved. Students from both GCOE and CBT could easily be integrated into the administration process as well, as part of their education, giving them valuable practical experience, while also demonstrating the confidence we have in the skills of faculty and students as we invite them to administer the university. This involvement should not just be limited to students from those colleges. The entire university should have the opportunity to be involved in its operation. Ours is a school known for, and taking pride in, a mission of social justice and community involvement.

Whether it’s in the inclusive running or grassroots upwelling of protest, social justice will find its expression here. Faculty and students are exercising what power they have at the school. It is up to the Board of Trustees and the administration, whether that energy and momentum are harnessed in favor of the university, or it will be fought down, and the values of progressive education will be shown to be only lip service. Will NEIU live by its own values and mission? Or will this school be just another educational institution that crumbles on the broken promises made to the very people it is meant to serve?