To the Editor:
Over the past two years, the state of Illinois has neglected Northern Illinois University to the tune of $120 million. Illinois has the second highest rate of abandonment of college-bound high school students in the nation. Illinois owes $16 billion to vendors.
The state has $250 billion in pension debt. The state has near junk-bond rating status.
The reason for Illinois’ predicament is simple – decades of political incompetence and corruption. To feel better, we occasionally send a governor to prison.
In 2013, as NIU searched for a new president, the FBI and other regulators were searching NIU. NIU’s vision was scrambled, finances were a mess, and student enrollment was in decline. My two-degree alma mater was in a state of crisis.
When I participated in a round of interviews for the new university president, I asked myself if any of the finalists could help right the ship. Doug Baker was and remains that person. In hiring Doug Baker, the Board of Trustees made a great move for NIU and for the future of higher education in Illinois.
As Doug Baker and the Board of Trustees made critical corrections with haste, Baker and his team made administrative errors – with eyes wide open. With the OEIG report in hand, instead of a quick and bold response, NIU’s response appears squeamish. NIU has corrected its errors.
Money is not the issue. The visioning and financial management services were necessary – and would have been paid regardless of how they were classified. In my opinion, given the mess NIU was in, Baker acted for the greater good. Only in Illinois, however, can we waste three years investigating what box was checked on a personnel form while state politicians push us to the brink of economic ruin.
Our state government is a political and management joke. The state’s political leaders, primarily in the Legislature, cover for each other and deflect attention away from their own grievous errors and political games.
Before newspapers and political leaders ask for resignations, they should look at the larger picture and their own neglect.
NIU Political Science ’77, NIU Public Administration ’79;
Former city manager, Naperville; NIU adjunct faculty; board member - NIU Alumni Association