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Local

NIU approves acting president, College of Law dean

Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees chairman John Butler (right) claps for Lisa Freeman after an announcement accepting Freeman's appointment to interim president during a special board meeting Wednesday at Algelt Hall in DeKalb.
Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees chairman John Butler (right) claps for Lisa Freeman after an announcement accepting Freeman's appointment to interim president during a special board meeting Wednesday at Algelt Hall in DeKalb.

DeKALB – Lisa Freeman, executive vice president and provost at Northern Illinois University, will become the first female president in the university’s 120-plus-year history Friday, after the Board of Trustees approved her appointment Wednesday.

She replaces Doug Baker, who announced his resignation earlier this month amid backlash from a report concluding he had mismanaged the university, and will serve in an acting role until a permanent replacement can be found.

Freeman said that her first job as acting president will be to improve transparency to make sure people have faith in the office once again.

“I’m going to commit to things like posting all my travel receipts and reimbursements, so that we diminish FOIA [requests], not by asking people to stop sending requests but by putting out the information so people feel that the information is available to them, and they understand how the office works,” Freeman said.

Christopher McCord, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, was selected to take over Freeman’s position as executive vice president. He said that although there is a crisis of confidence, in part because of the state budget impasse, he is committed to making the university a better place for students, faculty and staff, alumni and community.

“We may be limited by resources, but we are not limited by imagination or willpower,” McCord said.

Freeman said she will be watching Springfield very carefully over the next two days, as lawmakers attempt to pass a budget before Saturday – the first day of fiscal 2018.

“Clearly, what happens in Springfield over the next 48 hours will have a big influence on our budget and planning for the next year,” Freeman said. “We have to understand the range of what’s possible is anywhere from zero to up to $80 million, so we’re talking about a broad range to plan.”

Freeman will receive a base salary of $360,000 in her new role, and her salary as executive vice president and provost will be adjusted to $300,000 once she returns to that position.

Freeman, however, was not the only one appointed by the board o replace a resigning administrator.

Mark Cordes, professor at the College of Law, will replace Eric Dannenmaier as the school’s interim dean until a replacement can be found.

Dannenmaier announced his resignation Monday after being on administrative leave since February because of an internal investigation into alleged improper conduct.

“Following completion of the investigation, [Dannenmaier] opted to resign, citing his desire to see the law school remain focused on its important educational mission and to continue his own work in environmental law and policy,” a statement from NIU read.

It also stated that the university wishes to keep Dannenmaier in a position within the Division of Research and Innovation Partnerships, to develop strategies to ensure research and scholarship at NIU informs governmental policy at the local, state and national level.

Cordes declined to comment after the vote.

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