Student Leader Says Discussions Ease Concerns Over NIU 'Watch List'

Feb 2, 2018

Northern Illinois University students recently took to social media to express concerns about supposed online watch lists kept by the university on certain student groups.

Dean Kelly Wesener Michael, left, and Rachel Jacob

A Twitter account claimed that NIU kept social media watch lists of students in certain groups, including athletes and members of sororities and fraternities. University officials say those lists are merely entries using the software Maxient software for electronic records of certain types of incidents. NIU is one of 800 institutions nationwide that use the software.

NIU Dean of Students Kelly Wesener Michael says the software is not used to spy on student social media accounts. She says it provides a reference so the university can report to other organizations, like NCAA or national fraternities or sororities, if any issues do arise.

Wesener Michael says NIU is committed to timely responses and transparency with such issues and the overall safety of students. “In this current national climate,” she said, “I think that that’s really important that people understand that that’s a priority for us.”

NIU Student Association President Rachel Jacob says she believes students' questions were answered after a recent meeting with NIU officials.

Jacobs says she thinks the administration was receptive to student feedback as well.

“It seemed like, for the most part, that they were just taken really off-guard at how uneasy students were about this,” Jacobs said, “so I think for sure that they will be taking the proper steps to make sure that students will never feel like this again.”

Jacobs says the misunderstanding between NIU administration and student members of Greek-letter organizations may have contributed to already-existing tensions resulting from the 2012 death of a student in a fraternity house.

Student leaders say they are working with administrators to figure out better ways to notify students of the electronic filing policy.