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Our View: Good luck to NIU’s soon-to-be president

Welcome to town, Douglas Baker.

We’re glad you’re here and hope that your tenure as president of Northern Illinois University, which is set to begin in July, is long and successful.

Beginning in July, you will be the leader of the institution that is by far our community’s largest employer. More importantly, it’s an institution with a critical mission: Providing people of all ages with an education.

The university has described you as an expert in organizational strategy, structure and motivation, and those talents can certainly be used at NIU.

The past year or so has been one of ups and downs for the university that will be your new home. There have been triumphs and progress – like the football team’s trip to the Orange Bowl and the opening of two new residence halls in fall 2012.

Of course there has also been a lot of controversy. University employees have been indicted. The university police chief has been fired, and has alleged racial bias. The FBI carted years’ worth of records out of the NIU Police Department last month. Executive Vice President Eddie Williams has been placed on paid administrative leave because he was named in the search warrant.

These should be taken as a sign that changes need to be made in how the university operates, and in who operates it. NIU is too good an institution to be having these kinds of scandals splashed across the front pages of newspapers around the region.

We admit to being a bit taken aback at your $450,000 base salary – it’s almost $125,000 more a year than your predecessor – but that might be worth it if you can help the university meet its goals.

However, it’s also worth noting that these recent scandals had nothing to do with departments that deal with the university’s core mission of educating students.

Students, it appears, are as interested as ever in becoming Huskies. As we reported in Tuesday’s Daily Chronicle, more students are applying to NIU than ever before. More than 18,000 applications have been received from would-be freshmen seeking admission for the fall semester, the most ever at this point in the year.

There will be challenges in the years to come. There has been talk about a higher education bubble that could be primed to burst, and the state of Illinois is not exactly the most reliable funding partner these days.

Our community’s fortunes are linked in many ways to those of NIU.

We hope that you find success in your new and important role and look forward to the changes you will bring.

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