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NIU presidential search down to 4 candidates

Some Northern Illinois University students and alumni who sign a confidentiality agreement will be able to interview the four finalists for the university's president next week.

NIU trustees will meet the four finalists off-campus in a closed meeting March 22, according to a university news release. On March 23, small groups of faculty, staff, alumni and foundation board members, as well as community leaders, will meet with the final four.

The goal is to have a new president ready to begin July 1 as NIU President John Peters announced Oct. 12 that he will retire June 30.

The finalists were selected from 10 people who met in closed session last week with the presidential search advisory committee at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont. The 28-member search committee spent about 90 minutes interviewing the 10 finalists, who were selected from 48 candidates. The meetings were held in closed session, citing the personnel exemption to the Open Meeting Act, NIU spokesman Paul Palian said.

Confidentiality is becoming increasingly important in university presidential searches, but NIU representatives modified the traditional closed search model to include the group interviews with those who signed confidentiality agreements, Palian said.

“There are so many cases where president-board relations have been soured by president's looking for jobs," Palian said. "Presidents have actually lost their jobs.”

But Illinois Press Association attorney Don Craven questioned whether that level of confidentiality was appropriate considering the position and the process was publicly funded. He also questioned whether an open process would deter candidates.

"Either you want to be president of NIU or you don't," Craven said. "And if you do want to be president of NIU you should be proud of it.”

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