DeKALB – Members of Northern Illinois University’s Faculty Senate voiced concerns about NIU President Doug Baker’s leadership after vague responses to complaints over employment decisions and other rulings during their Wednesday meeting.
Senate and University Council steering committees sought clearer responses from the president’s “Baker Report” from Dec. 22, where Baker took responsibility for “limited compliance violations” in areas including employment, consulting and capital projects in his first two years. The committee members posed nine questions to Baker, which he answered.
Baker said in his responses to the committees’ questions that the report was not meant to be vague, but it wasn’t always possible to be detailed when responding to formally registered complaints.
“Investigations of complaints often involve a need for confidentiality to protect the integrity of investigations, ensuring that all relevant persons cooperate fully and relevant materials are reviewed thoroughly, or as otherwise required under the law,” Baker said in his response, which was provided to Long on Wednesday.
Senate President Greg Long recommended that the body review Baker’s responses to committee questions and have a thorough discussion during a later meeting.
Once all Senate members have reviewed the materials, there could be a call for a vote of no confidence, although no other vote of this kind has been called before, Long said.
Baker currently is completing the fourth year of a five-year contract.
The Faculty Senate is composed of 32 elected faculty members.
Each academic department has at least one member, with departments having more than 50 faculty members having two.
Some senate members took umbrage at the timing of Baker’s statement, which was released on the last day of the fall semester, so many people didn’t get a chance to review it.
Baker faced criticism over the hiring of friend and colleague Ron Walters in 2013, who was paid more than $460,000 for 18 months of work and improperly reimbursed for travel expenses.
The Office of Executive Inspector General is investigating the university over the hiring of temporary employees. The Daily Chronicle requested copies of the investigation findings that Baker referenced in his Dec. 22 message, but the request was denied. The paper has appealed the denial to the Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor’s office.
Virginia Naples, professor of biological sciences, said in her 33 years with NIU, she never has experienced anything that has astonished her more than the situation with Baker.
“Nothing has disappointed me as greatly as this, especially in a climate where the budget is already severely impacted,” Naples said. “I would urge everyone to share this information, to think about, process it and talk with your colleagues.”