NIU

Jury Acquits Ex-NIU Cop In Sexual Assault Case

Dec 15, 2016
Katie Finlon / WNIJ

A DeKalb County jury found 28-year-old Andrew Rifkin not guilty of sexually assaulting a Northern Illinois University freshman student in 2011, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The former NIU police officer was accused of assaulting the student during a consensual sexual encounter. 

NIU Today

A pair of high-ranking Vice Presidents at Northern Illinois University are leaving the school next year.

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

Hundreds of students gathered for Northern Illinois University's undergraduate commencement ceremony Sunday at the Convocation Center. Friends, family, and relatives filled the stands for the graduation activities.

NIU President Doug Baker acknowledged what he calls "notable achievements" of several students, including Student Marshall Jessica Christofersen; she served in the United States Army, reported for The Northern Star, studied in England, and is working for commercial-pilot certification.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

The Northern Illinois University campus community got a look Monday at the next phase of a plan that will shape the campus for years to come. It’s called Program Prioritization, and it’s a review of all academic and administrative programs at NIU.

Jessie Schlacks / WNIJ

A candlelight vigil Thursday marked the end of Northern Illinois University's Transgender Week of Resilience.

Organizers read aloud names of transgender people across the world who were victims of violence last year. 

Other events this week included NIU unveiling an option for students to enter a preferred name on their school account; this name will appear for professors and in most campus systems.

Harvesting History From DeKalb-Area Immigrants

Oct 18, 2016
Jessie Schlacks / WNIJ

Volunteers at the NIU Founder's library are working on a new project called “History Harvest.”

They’re collecting items that symbolize the journey to northern Illinois, which can include photographs, letters, or an oral story.

Undergraduate history students are “digitizing” the collections for the public to see online.

Drew VandeCreek, an organizer of the project, says it’s a collaborative way for students to learn about immigration.  

DeKalb County Judge Robin Stuckert will meet with interested parties today in cases related to the 2015 death of Oluwarotimi “Timi” Okedina.

Police arrested two students and another man in 2015 after Okedina plunged to his death Sept. 26 from an 11th story window in the Stephenson Towers residence hall. 

Public universities continue to struggle with budgeting due to uncertainty in Springfield, Northern Illinois University President Doug Baker told a town hall meeting Thursday. He says the stopgap and partial-year budget measures aren’t enough. His suggestion to lawmakers?

"Why don’t we take the 2017 budget—that half-year budget -- and count it towards ’16 and you give us a full-year budget?," Baker asked. "That’s our story. The odds of that are probably not very high right now.”

Jessie Schlacks

The University of Chicago received national attention last month after an administrator issued a letter to freshmen telling them that the university will not condone the creation of so-called “safe spaces” where students can retreat from ideas and perspectives “at odds with their own.”

It's a hot-button issue for schools across the nation. 

For their part, Northern Illinois University leaders are looking beyond the confines of the campus to create an environment for people of all backgrounds, beliefs and experiences.

It's a mixed bag of news about enrollment from state schools in Illinois this week.

Northern Illinois University President Doug Baker says enrollment is down 5.5%, putting the school at 19,015 students university-wide. Baker tells the campus community that the largest decline is in the freshman class. Numbers from NIU show there are 457 fewer freshman compared to last year; that's a drop of 20.2%. Smaller declines took place among transfer and graduate students. 

  Northern Illinois  University campus parking officials say enforcement hours for marked lots now run from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.

However, those hours do not apply to restricted parking areas like no-parking zones, handicapped spaces, and  reserved spaces. Campus lots will require permits at all times.

Enforcement hours for reserved parking spaces still run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or at all times as posted.

High Traffic Expected As NIU Students Move In

Aug 19, 2016
Susan Stephens

Around 3,000 students will move into Northern Illinois University today. 

NIU officials say this will result in nearly 5,000 vehicles on local roads. 

Traffic from I-88’s Annie Glidden Road exit will be routed down Fairview Drive and Nelson Road before going down Lincoln Highway. 

Routes on West Campus will be one-way, and increased traffic is expected along Sycamore’s retail corridor, especially around Target and Wal-Mart.  

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

Former Northern Illinois University police officer Andrew Rifkin was charged with sexually assaulting a female freshman student at NIU in 2011.

Following his arrest, Rifkin was interviewed by two university police officers for about two and a half hours. That interview was recorded.

Rifkin's attorney, Bruce Brandwein, says a large portion of the recorded interview was not recovered. He also says there are missing text messages between Rifkin and the victim from days following the incident.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

We’re learning a lot more about the workhorse of the world’s flower beds and planter boxes: the Petunia Genome Project is complete, with the help of researchers from Northern Illinois University.

NIU professors Tom Sims and Rick Johns were among the primary researchers in the four year project. Johns says mapping the petunia’s DNA involved 50 researchers from 10 countries.

Science used to be one scientist working in a lab with a few students but now international collaboration is the rule, not the exception.

Stopgap Funding Shores Up NIU

Jul 4, 2016
NIU

  Last week’s stopgap budget measure provided additional funding to higher education, including Northern Illinois University.  The measure provides 48 million dollars for NIU’s  institutional operations. 

With this funding, NIU now has about 80% of the money that it requested for the previous fiscal year.  Although it’s categorized as operational expenses, and doesn’t have the limits of a line-item budget, Finance and Administration Vice President Al Phillips says most of this cash will go toward university payroll.  He also says the stopgap bill is only a short term solution.  

An Illinois appeals court has reinstated a wrongful death lawsuit against a Northern Illinois University fraternity by the family of a pledge who died in 2012.

The Daily Herald reports the family of David Bogenberger sued the NIU chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha, arguing the fraternity and its members were responsible for Bogenberger's death because pledges were required to participate in excessive drinking to gain membership. 

The 19-year-old died in 2012 with a blood alcohol level of .43 percent after a fraternity party.  

ufaniu.org

It's official. Northern Illinois University faculty members have formed a union. They were certified by the Illinois Labor Relations Board Monday.

NIU faculty members filed an intent to unionize in April: now they can get to work as the UFA -- the United Faculty Alliance of Northern Illinois University. It will represent more than 600 tenured and tenure track faculty members.

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

The Northern Illinois University Anthropology and Theatre & Dance departments will be without a designated academic building for at least one more year.

The renovated NIU Stevens Building was supposed to be finished by this fall, but the state budget impasse delayed the project.

NIU spokesman Joe King says that, if the school gets funding by next month, the “best case scenario” would be that the construction will be done by fall 2017. But he says the longer it takes to pass a state budget, the longer those students don’t get those “first-rate facilities.”

The Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees unanimously voted to rescind Dennis Hastert's honorary degree from the school. The Board met Thursday afternoon to discuss the matter during a special meeting.

    

Hastert received an honorary law doctoral degree in 1999. Earlier this month, the university announced a move by a committee to revoke the award. 

The committee said in a memo to President Doug Baker that Hastert’s recent felony conviction and sexual abuse testimony “do not reflect the values of the institution.”

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

63 years ago, the Korean War came between a Northern Illinois University graduate and his cap and gown. Now, he’s back on campus to make the long-delayed march with his fellow grads. 

In May of 1953, Gus Trantham’s parents took a train from Chicago to DeKalb to accept his diploma in a ceremony he couldn’t attend.  Trantham was in the Navy by then, behind enemy lines in Korea.

NIU

The status hearing scheduled this week involving NIU Controller Keith Jackson and university officials has been reset to Aug. 30.

In 2015, Jackson filed suit for wrongful termination against NIU, the university’s Board of Trustees, President Doug Baker, and former interim CFO Nancy Suttenfield.

The decision to move the status hearing in Rockford follows a motion by the defendants to dismiss the case. Keith Jackson must respond to that motion by May 19. NIU and Baker then must reply by early June. 

The highly anticipated Program Prioritization Task Force reports were released shortly after 3 p.m. Monday afternoon on the Northern Illinois University website.

NIU Executive Vice President and Provost Lisa Freeman told WNIJ News that the Prioritization reports are a step in the process which began in 2014 and will continue for some time to come.

She urged everyone reading the reports to take a broad view.

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

The Gender and Sexuality Resource Center at Northern Illinois University recently hosted a screening for a movie about the role of women in different media in the U.S.

The film was called Miss Representation, which was about how women are portrayed in American television, magazines, music and broadcast news and the issues those women face. It was the first time NIU’s Gender and Sexuality Resource Center hosted a documentary screening like this, and the idea was to have people come watch it and discuss what they saw afterwards and relate it to their own experiences.

Northern Illinois University has named the next leader of its College of Business. 

  Balaji Rajagopalan starts his job as Dean July 1st. Currently, he heads the Black School of Business at Penn State Behrend. 

NIU provost Lisa Freeman praised him for his collaborative style. 

NIU

Faculty members at Northern Illinois University are moving to form a union.  NIU faculty on Thursday filed an intent to unionize with the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board. 

NIU Associate Professor of History Rosemary Feurer says in a news release announcing the filing that a union will give faculty a greater voice to improve NIU, for the benefit of students and the community.

The United Faculty Alliance of Northern Illinois University would represent more than 600 tenured and tenure-track faculty members across NIU.

wiu.edu

As some colleges and universities head toward a fiscal cliff, lawmakers are talking about ways to keep them afloat. 

One plan would only fund five schools. State Rep. Rita Mayfield, a Waukegan Democrat, says money would go to Chicago State University, Western Illinois University, Eastern Illinois University, Northeastern Illinois University, and Southern Illinois University. 

She says those are the schools most at risk of shutting down. 

Hmong History On Display At NIU's Pick Museum

Apr 9, 2016
Chase Cavanaugh

The Northern Illinois University Pick Museum of Anthropology is hosting an exhibition and oral history exhibit about the Hmong. 

This Southeast Asian group has lived across China, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand, but has a very recent history.  During the 1960s, the Hmong were recruited by the CIA to fight against the North Vietnamese in Laos.  The clandestine nature of these operations gave the brief conflict its name,  "the Secret War."  

NIU Today

Northern Illinois University recently signed an agreement with Kishwaukee College Wednesday making it easier for students studying manufacturing to earn a four-year degree.  Kishwaukee students can take additional courses online and after a third year of instruction, transfer to NIU.  After the final two semesters, they will receive a Bachelor of Applied Sciences degree. 

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

Northern Illinois University police observed Women’s History Month by hosting an event called "Women of the Shield" that commemorated women officers rising through the ranks.

NIU officer Weyni Langdon says she didn’t see a lot of people that looked like her at the beginning of her career, but she had a lot of women police mentors that inspired her. She wanted to create this type of gathering for the DeKalb area after she attended something similar when she first started out as a police officer.

Northern Illinois University

A three-year-old FBI probe of Northern Illinois University is over, according to the school. But the FBI won’t confirm that. 

In March 2013, FBI agents searched NIU’s public safety building, removing boxes of records, but not revealing what they were looking for. It was believed to be focused on former police chief Don Grady and head of finance Eddie Williams.

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