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Baker Report: Change

April 24, 2014
Douglas D. Baker

Douglas D. Baker

Our campus stands poised for a period of great opportunities as we re-envision the university and address our significant challenges. Some of these challenges are externally imposed, such as the new pension laws, which are expected to spur a record number of retirements this spring. Those retirements will result in a loss of valued employees and institutional knowledge. The uncertain implications for our employees’ retirements have also caused a good deal of stress for those faced with retirement decisions as well as those staying.

Last week, I spoke with the University of Illinois trustees and, this week, with the other public university presidents to see what – if anything – can be done at this late date. We are continuing to make our case in Springfield, but it is a difficult and complex situation.

In recent weeks I have also testified in the state House of Representatives and Senate about the impact of potential funding cuts on higher education and NIU. There seems to be an emerging understanding of the impact of further state budget reductions.

We do face a significant revenue reduction due to our declining enrollments. This is an area where we can make a big difference through our recruitment and retention activities. I appreciate the efforts of people across the university who have been working to address our enrollment decline, but we all still have a great deal of work to do.

While all of this change can be unsettling to contemplate, I ask that you keep in mind that the changes will also create new personal and professional opportunities that expand our skills. These changes also afford the opportunity to reinvigorate our campus community, sharpen our focus and ultimately redefine our institution.

To aid in that process, I ask everyone to keep the lines of communication open and information flowing. If you are among those pondering retirement by the end of the fiscal year, I ask that you discuss your plans with your supervisor as early as possible so that he/she can plan accordingly. By the same token, I’m asking managers to keep employees aware of any potential changes before they become finalized and keep them abreast of new opportunities as they become available.

In that same spirit, I will keep the lines of communication open as we work through the summer and begin strategic planning in earnest. Last week, we celebrated the SPS employees for their service at a luncheon event, and this afternoon we recognized our faculty with a ceremony and reception. Both functions reinforced for me the important contributions of all of our employees in building this outstanding university. We will need dedicated efforts in a strong community culture to face our challenges and turn them into positive opportunities.

Forward Together,