Editorial: Fearless in the face of apathy

Photo+by+Emmalene+Oysti

Photo by Emmalene Oysti

North Wind Staff

Is NMU’s Board of Trustees out of touch with the NMU community’s wants and needs?

One could argue yes, and here’s why:

The board recently awarded NMU President Fritz Erickson a $50,000 bonus, on top of his $262,000 salary. That nearly 20 percent one-time bonus amounts to more than the median household income in Marquette County of $45,409, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau—not to mention his university-supplied house and other perks.

The board also approved new mission and vision statements for Northern. These statements emphasize NMU’s “distinctive academic and career programs,” “exceptional teaching” and “active environment,” a major goal of which is to train students to be “leaders capable of local and global impact.”

But the president getting such a large bonus is not in line with the progressive sentiments of either statement. The board cited Erickson’s performance and university accomplishments over the past year, including innovation, an increase in freshman enrollment and success with the Educational Access Network as reasons for his bonus.

But awarding this bonus to one person in an institution of hundreds of employees, many of whom are hardworking and creative, and are doing the bulk work of this praised innovation, seems like a slap in the face to the rest, especially as positions are cut and some departments’ budgets get leaner and leaner.

And though the board chose to vote on this item, another item was noticeably absent from its meeting agenda. The board’s decision not to vote on ASNMU’s resolution to officially recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day on campus, a student-led resolution approved by administration and many faculty members, is directly ignoring something the university community wants. It also defies a movement that student leaders have worked on for two years to make an impact on an issue that is important to them.

The board needs to better perceive how its decisions affect students and employees after the trustees fly back to their homes until the next board meeting.

In his Aug. 22 fall convocation speech, Erickson spoke on his goal of Northern’s strategic change and “distinction.” In the future, the Board of Trustees and NMU administration should take note that what makes the university community distinctive is its people: the underpaid and overworked staff and faculty and the student workers who make minimum wage for a maximum of 20 hours a week. Many people put in countless hours of unrecognized dedication to make those worthy ideals in the mission and vision a reality.