Opinion—Erickson termination leaves NMU with unprecedented uncertainty

Travis Nelson, Sports Editor

I really thought that the past two years couldn’t be touched in terms of the level of chaos at NMU. However, topping even a global pandemic, right now we’re left without a permanent president still without a union contract.

Everything came up so quickly in the events that led to former President Fritz Erickson’s termination on Friday, Sept. 24. The NMU Board of Trustees gave some key reasons for firing Erickson, and I believe them. However, the lack of thoughtfulness on Erickson’s part, which was one reason the BOT cited for his termination, is something the BOT could be accused of too. The entire community had zero idea that this was coming, and the board made no effort to let us know. The result of this is, in my opinion, the most uncertainty we have had as a university even through the pandemic.

COVID-19 isn’t over by any means, and we’re still coping with it. But during the worst parts of the initial phases, we at the very least retained the same administration throughout the past 19 months. Now we don’t have a president, and obviously, this is a very rare time. Maybe not as rare as a once-in-a-century pandemic, but for a university, it doesn’t get any more chaotic than having no leadership. 

We are now left with uncertainty and maybe had we all seen this coming, there wouldn’t be as much. Funny enough, the issue we’ve seen for months now is the AAUP contract situation, and that is what remains unsolved. In our North Wind news podcasts, I’ve criticized Erickson and the administration for not having a contract agreed upon, but now Erickson is gone. It’s not a blame game scenario, but it feels like “the problem” has been supposedly removed. There’s still no contract.

I’m not sure what kind of difference it would have made, but it seems that most people have felt blindsided by how quickly things transpired. The BOT has intentions to do what’s best for the university, but it doesn’t seem like the students have been a focal point of those decisions for a while. Just when it seemed that the faculty was a focal point, we find out the union doesn’t have a contract.

Who is the focal point of our university? Who is being helped right now? I’m not quite sure what Erickson’s direction was going to be, but right now there isn’t a direction at all. It was nice to see Kerri Schuiling be named the interim president, but she’s not going to be determining what our direction is. Interim is a placeholder position, so unless she becomes president, it will be someone else holding the job. It will most likely be an outside hire, so it’ll be interesting to find out whose best interest is going to be served moving forward.

This probably won’t hit me; I graduate soon. However, the future of our university is unknown. Going forward, as we currently don’t have a president or a faculty union contract, this is the most unprecedented uncertainty we’ll ever see at NMU.