First things first…

A letter to our next NEIU president

Patrick O'Brien, Writer

There were several NEIU presidential candidates on campus this past week to meet with students and staff, to press the flesh, so to speak, and answer questions about what they would do in the top job at this university. I missed those sessions, but I had few questions of my own for whoever is the next head honcho at this school.

First, future president, can you keep the labor peace? There will be contract talks with the University Professionals of Illinois (UPI) in the next several years, and in case you missed it, the last round of talks ended in a 20-day strike that was a public relations disaster for the school and a victory for the professors.

Daniel Goodwin, the former Chair of the Board of Trustees, is also no longer around to bail out the university with last-minute money to seal the deal with professors, who are even better organized than last time. Bad negotiators need not apply.

My next question: can you walk around campus once in awhile? Face time is important to some of us. We want to see you walk the campus every so often, maybe talk to some actual students, perhaps be caught dead in the company of someone other than your own assistants and other administrators. Are you really the university president if no one even knows who you are? Office shut-ins need not apply.

This is a question that has vexed me for some time: can you help the satellite campuses get better facilities? The Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies (CCICS) doesn’t have a lunch room; they have vending machines. Their library also has limited hours, and they have no access to exercise equipment in their building. At El Centro, students have nowhere to park. All of these students pay the same fees as those on the main campus, and they should be treated as such. Do-nothings need not apply.

The question that bothers more students than any other: can we have more sections of each class? At a university that prides itself on access, can we get more than one section of required classes for upperclassmen? Access at NEIU often means access to a professor’s waiting list. It’s a small wonder students don’t graduate from NEIU within four years; we can’t leave if the door has been locked in front of us. This university is expanding, and we expect you to keep up with it. Obstructionists need not apply.

My last question is, future president of NEIU, are you going to be anything like the current president, who has fostered a construction boom that has beautified the university but has failed to be accessible to the students who pay her salary, as well as maintained an adversarial relationship with the school’s faculty? Are you going to duck and run at news conference and preside over incompetence? Are you going to maintain a personal staff that is bloated and wastes precious university dollars? Who needs four assistants anyway? Salme Steinberg need not re-apply.