On January 23rd, 2016 two important stories were released to the press from Northeastern Illinois University’s administration. The first was a victory for the administration. In Patty Wetli in DNAChicago writes: “After a frequently contentious fight, Northeastern Illinois University has succeeded in its two-year-long bid to acquire properties on Bryn Mawr in order to build student housing, an effort that required NEIU to invoke eminent domain.” Earlier that day on January 20 Hahs is quoted by Jodi Cohen in the Chicago Tribune: “Northeastern Illinois University President Sharon Hahs said that while she anticipates completing the spring semester, "there is potential for our university to shut down" without an "adequate appropriation" soon.” It seems ironic, even quite serendipitous that these two events happened to be released to the press on the same day. Why do you ask? Why would the administration want our sympathies for the Illinois public funding for higher education that has been halted by Rauner’s budget stalemate in Springfield? Why would President Hahs publicly say such a thing to the Chicago press? What will happen to the shiny new dorms that are being built currently on university property? What will happen to the new Education building that is slated to be built sometime soon?
On January 20th a Targeted Announcement went out to the campus community through email, the SAME day these two pieces of newsworthy tidbits were released: “All students, faculty, alumni, staff and friends are invited to join us Tuesday, January 26, at 3 p.m. in Alumni Hall as we celebrate the naming of the Daniel L. Goodwin College of Education and the kickoff to the Goodwin Gift Challenge. Alumnis Daniel Goodwin issued this challenge: raise up to $500,000 for the NEIU Foundation in 2016, 2017 and 2018. If this is accomplished, he will give $500,000 to the newly named Daniel Goodwin College of Education.” All of this seems remarkably oddly timed for a university that may be shuttered after the spring semester. Here we come back to the Wicked Witch of Bryn Mawr. She is very cunning, super well placed to use her power with the union and the Chicago public appearing to be in need of support and the victim of Republican budget cuts.
She appears to the campus community as the one who is brave enough to utter the words, “the potential for our university to shut down,” and yet walking around NEIU last week after this press release there was not one shred of evidence that such a terrible thing could happen in less than three months. This is where it gets really interesting. Why don’t staff and faculty talk about what’s happening at NEIU? Why don’t they meet and discuss the matters at hand? The entire block bulldozed down, more new student housing unveiled, the Decade of Dreams plan moving forward with spectacular success? That sounds good to me, not exactly a crisis. But with the threat of closure, everyone is closemouthed, afraid to make eye contact. Do you want your students to know that such a statement was made publicly who are hoping to graduate in the next year or semester? Certainly not. Better to stay quiet and not make any moves that could make a target. TakeBackNEIU has seen this series of events unravel in a short period of time. The current administration have created a crisis, justified massive restructuring which strips the faculty and staff of power and free speech, and consolidated it at the top, which ensures maximum efficiency via minimal costs. What we have here is the next step of the coup d’etat: the Corporate University owned and operated by the real estate company American Campus Communities Inc. that will literally chase our neighbors away who might remind us what sort of community has always been at the heart of the true NEIU mission, to serve it’s working class community.
To quote an earlier Take Back NEIU blog: “The Wicked Witch of Bryn Mawr”, it seems eerily prophetic: “The President is thinking about #1: Sharon Hahs. The wicked witch of Bryn Mawr will take all of these delicious real estate treats and the grants earmarked for low income students, and put her wicked legacy in place. Enrollments down, dorms empty, whole departments destroyed, financial exigency, and faculty fleeing in droves. She will leave our university like a piece of bread eaten away to the bitter crust by corporate greed. “