Trustees Attend Faculty Senate

Dan Maurer, News Editor

Two members of the NEIU Board of Trustees (BoT), J. Todd Phillips and Betty Fleurimond, attended the Faculty Senate meeting on April 25, 2023, where they heard the concerns and frustrations of the senators and engaged them in dialogue.

Phillips said, of himself and Fleurimond, “Our goal is to engage, to listen, to understand our roles and to execute those roles in earnest.”

As the senators spoke, there was much for them to listen to.

Olivia Perlow, one of the chairs of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), asked the board members to “squash” the reorganization that had previously been directed by Interim Provost Andrea Evans. She said, “At the provost level, there is incompetence and utter disregard of process, utter disregard of putting things in writing, utter disregard of being data-driven.”

 Referencing the administrations of former NEIU president Sharon Hahs and the current president, Gloria Gibson, Perlow said, “Over the years, we’ve had… austerity-driven administrators who only think of cut cut cut,”

Aneta Galary, another senator from CAS, spoke of ideology.

“Our leaders, historically, have had a hard time distinguishing between a public university and businesses…Profit is not our objective,” Galary said “Our objective and mission is to educate students who historically, and currently, have been disadvantaged, who have been forgotten.”

Nicholas O. Hoel, professor of history, spoke to the board members and urged them to invest in students, rather than cutting classes in an effort to save money. 

Hoel said, referring to students, “they need specific classes for their majors. They need classes that they want. And when classes get cut, they don’t take other classes… Students leave when that happens.”

Hoel said that students who find a major through their general education classes are more likely to stay at the university and that most of those classes are taught by instructors who are often the first teachers to be let go when classes are cut.

Tim Duggan, a professor in the College of Education, expressed deep concern regarding staff in areas of the university who interact directly with students, such as enrollment and financial aid, saying, “It’s been an area where we really suffer.” Duggan attributed these troubles to “mismanagement at the highest levels,” as well as high turnover and burnout from staff cuts. He warned that current policies may have the same effect on faculty.

Adam Goldstein, a communications and theater professor, suggested “immediate common sense solutions” to begin solving NEIU’s enrollment problems. Goldstein recommended investing in outreach teams that would actively recruit in high schools and community colleges, meeting directly with students and not just relying on guidance counselors. 

He said there had previously been recruitment teams in some departments going out to schools, but they had been cut. Goldstein said, “Chairs who are already overtaxed, and faculty who are already overtaxed, and staff who are already overtaxed are all trying to do that work on top of their regular day-to-day, and that’s not gonna work. That’s not sustainable.”

Olivia Perlow suggested marketing the successes of community members, saying, “We have amazing students, we have amazing alum, we have amazing faculty that are not being highlighted.”

Qiumei Xu, of the College of Business and Technology, directly appealed to the duties of the Board of Trustees. She said that the BoT’s job is not to directly manage the university. She said, “I hope the Board of Trustees will think about any specific approaches to measure accountability. I think that that will truly help all those issues we’ve just shared with you.”

Before the meeting was adjourned, Fleurimond thanked the faculty senate by saying, “This is important for me to hear. So again, thank you. I do not take this seat for granted…I signed up for this.” 

Phillips expressed his own appreciation, “We hear you, and we don’t just hear you, we see the passion, we see the energy and the conviction in the messages you’re conveying. So genuinely, we see that and we appreciate it.”