Board of Trustees faced with many issues concerning NEIU community
One more Board of Trustees meeting began and ended with tense questions and comments regarding the future of the NEIU community. Students lined up outside Alumni Hall protesting against many of the changes implemented without following the shared governance process and defending their professors' "battle" for pay raises.
Holding up signs "We Love Our Professors!," "Without Our Professors Our Educations is dead" and "Why No Confidence?," students demonstrated their respect for their professors and demanded the attention of the Board. Alumni Hall filled up quickly and impatiently waited for the meeting to begin. The faculty was excited to see their students holding up signs. "They love us," said Professor Therese Schuepfer, smiling at the students' painted faces.
The Board began the meeting by approving some important actions, such as expenditure requests for remodeling the Angelina Pedroso Center for Diversity and Intercultural Affairs and Recital Hall Acoustical Modifications. After President Hahs updated the Board on some important actions and expenditures, they moved to discuss a preliminary report on the change in activity hour.
"We made this change a year ago, after consulting the Faculty Council and the Student Government because the goal was to provide additional hours for students to have more courses and to enhance the students participation," said Hahs. According to this report the student activity has dropped from 90 percent to 79 percent, but "it is too early," Hahs added. Student Trustee, Cheryl Rose Devenny said that, according to a survey, clubs have suffered from a lack of members' recruitment and participation. Devenny said that it's been only one semester since the change took place and added, "We need to move forward and make sure that both goals are being met."
Carlos Azcoitia, Chair of the Board, said, "We want to create this kind of balance where the students have their activity time and in the same time the opportunities for graduating."
There was an opportunity for public comments, following the old and new business. Several request for speaking were placed in advance. Steve Frankel, a biology instructor on the bargaining team of the Faculty Union, talked first. He said that he sees the role instructors play in this institution and they have pride in it, but more importantly pride in their students. Because of that role and pride, he said that current workload proposed by the Administration, in bargaining their new contract, would prevent them of providing quality education. Frankel said that instructors are the people in the classrooms and they see that every day. "Increasing the workload even with one class will jeopardize the quality of education," said Frankel.
Professor Nanette Potee talked as well and said that on the contract, faculty stand firmly behind the instructors. She emphasized the administration's current pay raises versus faculty's and gave an example of how the CMT Department, one of the biggest departments on campus, has a part-time secretary when they need someone full-time, but administration won't release money for this.
Professor Steven Riess urged the Board of Trustees to contribute to end the negotiations and to line up the NEIU faculty compensations with other institutions or the same rank. He said, "The business of education is education, let's get back to education!"
Moving ahead with comments on issues concerning NEIU faculty, staff and students, more faculty and students stepped up to talk before the Board. All of them addressed problems which are leading the university to deviate from its mission of offering a high quality education to some of the most disadvantaged students. Faculty demanded that the contract be settled fairly and students objected again the closing of the Adult and Women Students Program and the change of activity hour.
"We have to pay attention to all the messages here because we want to be an inclusive university are, so we are paying attention, we are reading, we are working to resolve all the matters, that's our interest," said Azcoitia, and even though he couldn't say when, he added that they are working with the President Hahs and the administration to resolve all matters.
Hahs commented on the students uprising saying that they are "wonderful" and it is great that they have come out to support their faculty. "That's what they should be doing," said Hahs, adding that she hopes they will resolve all the issues facing the university.
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