President Freeman Speaks on Term Changes and More on University Goals – Northern Star

Freeman spoke to the Northern Star about plans related to tenure, student mental health, enrollment, Braven, Greek Life and an ambassador program for international students.

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Sean Reed

NIU President Lisa Freeman (center) discusses student involvement in Greek life at NIU with Joe King, Associate Director for Institutional Communications, during their meeting with the Northern Star Monday at her Altgeld Hall office. (Sean Reed | North Star)

DeKALB – NIU President Lisa Freeman’s university goals, against which the Board of Trustees will evaluate their performance in late 2023, spoke of future standards — including expanding tenure criteria.

“I think we think some of the policies are outdated and maybe overly rigid because the world has changed,” Freeman said.

The NIU intends to revise its definition of scholarship to make it broader, which would open the tenure to more employees with cross-departmental studies.

In the future, tenure could be offered beyond departments and universities.

“We are also looking to explore tenure houses outside of academic departments, in facilities such as centers,” Freeman said. “Other universities do that. It’s something NIU hasn’t done, but I think we should consider it — and so should many of our faculty leaders and leadership team members.”


Two street signs for Hillcrest Drive and Blackhawk Road stand on Greek Row in the North Annie Glidden neighborhood of DeKalb on an overcast day. (Sean Reed | North Star)

NIU will partner with JED Campus, a nonprofit organization that assesses student mental health needs and recommends plans to the university.

“JED is a collaboration of higher education institutions that has a methodology to assess where you are and help you plan and implement programs that serve your students, and then create an ongoing cycle of assessment revision, to make sure you have a sustainable mental health ecosystem,” Freeman said.

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A collaboration with JED would be a 4 year program. The first year of the nonprofit would be to evaluate the NIU’s mental health resources. In the second and third years it would implement recommendations, and in the fourth year it would assess and discuss the longevity of the NIU’s plans.


Freeman’s university goals outline a “target range” that enrollment should achieve in order for it to meet the standards agreed upon by the Board of Trustees.

If enrollment for the 2023-2024 academic year was below 15,360 students, Freeman would “not live up to expectations.” If enrollment is between 15,360 and 15,570 students, Freeman would meet expectations, a difference of 210 students.

16,549 students were enrolled for the fall semester of 2022.

“If we’re talking about our enrollment target range … as a starting point, if everything was like last year, that would be the number,” Freeman said.

The NIU also intends to bring more students into classes taught online by Braven Inc. NIU paid an estimated $2.3 million for a contract with Braven, according to online purchase records.

UNIV 301, Braven’s course at NIU, has enrolled 162 students this semester (end of 2022-2023 academic year). Freeman’s goals outline a goal of 700-850 students enrolling on the course in the 2023-2024 academic year.

“It’s a scale-up, but I think it’s doable,” Freeman said. “I think it will take some effort and we are taking steps to increase enrollment. I think the first obstacle was that we started recruiting for Braven late this fall and no one had the experience to know if it would be valuable.

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Freeman spoke about NIU’s thought process behind the creation of the Greek Life Revitalization Task Force in September 2021, which released its proposal report in November. The task force recommended ways to increase recruitment, solve housing problems, and promote a sense of community.

The entrance to NIU Counseling and Counseling Services, Peters Campus Life Building, Room 200. (Sean Reed | Northern Star)

“Greek life does that for many students, connecting them to university, to their fellow students, to aspirations around academic success and philanthropy and being part of a community – and that’s why we support Greek life,” Freeman said. “We’re almost unusual these days when we run into Greek life when other campuses run away from some things that aren’t necessarily essential to Greek life but are often associated with Greek life, like alcohol abuse for example. “


Her university goals outline an ambassador program for international students to be drafted by June 2023.

“We’ve heard from our international students, many but not all of whom are graduate students, that just having more peer mentoring and connections, as well as connections to faculty from their area with international experience, would help them,” Freeman said.

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