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June 18 Supreme Court Ruling on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program

June 18 Supreme Court Ruling on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

President Lisa FreemanI am writing today to let you know that I join many of you in appreciating today’s Supreme Court ruling blocking efforts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

This cause has been a priority for me from the earliest days of my presidency. I have listened to, and been moved by, the stories of our DACA students. They impress me with their strength and inspire me with their courage and resiliency. I have signed multiple letters and petitions put forth by my peers in higher education to secure rights for undocumented members of our community, and I have advocated on their behalf in meetings that I have had with members of Congress.

While there is more work to be done and uncertainties ahead, I want to be clear that NIU will continue to support all members of our community, regardless of their immigration status. We will continue working alongside them, fighting for their right to live, learn, work and contribute in the country that they have called home for nearly all of their lives.

Going forward, I urge all of those affected by or committed to this cause to familiarize yourself with the information and resources that our office of Undocumented Student Support has compiled. Take advantage of the guidance and knowledge available through our Cultural Resource Centers and the NIU Center for Student Assistance. Finally, I urge all who want their voices heard on this matter to engage with the student-led organization DREAM Action NIU to learn how to advocate with state and federal legislators.

As positive as today’s news is, this issue is far from resolved, and we remain committed to urging lawmakers to find a long-term legislative solution.

Together Forward,

Lisa C. Freeman
President

A message from Chief Diversity Officer Vernese Edghill-Walden

A message from Chief Diversity Officer Vernese Edghill-Walden

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled…the cry is always the same: ‘We want to be free.’

Vernese Edgehill-WaldenThese are words spoken by Martin Luther King Jr. more than five decades ago. And, as we have seen in recent weeks, the same rings true today as hundreds of thousands of people across the globe take a stand against racist systems that disproportionately impact Black and Brown communities.

I write this letter with a full heart after seeing the brutal murder of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Walter Scott, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and so many others whose lives have been unnecessarily cut short. It has taken me some time to put my feelings into words. I must admit, my heart carries the weight of repeatedly seeing Black men, women, and children killed at the hands of police officers. My heart is troubled because year after year I see those same officers escape accountability as they are protected by a badge and a U.S. justice system that continues to promote structural and systemic inequities.

I am the proud daughter, sister, wife, mom, aunt, cousin, and friend to Black men and women who love me, and more importantly, taught me how to love despite generations of systemic racism and the fear instilled in Blacks. It is through this lens that I take this moment of vulnerability to give voice to what I am feeling.

I have a young Black son. He is smart and curious and handsome. Strangers admire his quick wit. He is cute. My heart pumps with a love that I can’t describe for that young child. My entire being aches at the thought that one day, in the eyes of an unjust society, he will transition from being seen as a cute young child to a young Black man who poses a threat. One day, he may be a target. That hurts me to my core not just for my son, but for my husband, nephews, father, brother, cousins, colleagues, students and friends who face that same unfortunate reality.

To each of you who carry the weight of racial injustice, I want you to know you are not alone. I carry it too. But your resilience, creativity, determination, and passion embody what it means to be a Huskie. You come to NIU laser focused on finding the path to changing your life, your community, and the world. The future is yours to create. Don’t give up the fight! I remind myself of these same words each day. Stay focused on reaching your career goals and obtaining a college degree. It is one of the most meaningful indicators of social upward mobility and continues to be a substantially important tool of liberation. I am a living witness of this.

These last few weeks have been challenging but I can assure you that, here at NIU, our faculty, staff, and students want to be on the right side of justice. For all of you who have stood and marched in the name of justice, we see you and we are deeply grateful for your support. As MLK Jr.’s words suggest, we are rising up in mass and will rise out of this movement stronger.

President Freeman is calling on the entire campus community to reflect on what we value as Huskies, and as human beings, to make positive change. At NIU, we have had conversations about how our identities intersect and how our differences can be used to build a wholistic community. We have made significant strides and I am proud of the work that has been done. But we are not where we need to be. There are still very hard realities that we need to face – from distributing funds more equally to student organizations to recruiting more faculty and staff of color. I commit to you that ADEI will work with NIU’s senior leaders to take a long, hard look at areas where we need to improve. We will be honest and we will come up with plans that build better relationships.

But we can’t do it alone. We need all of you to join us as we dismantle systems and build an anti-racist community where everyone can thrive. Things will look differently at NIU going forward. I will share more specific details with you in the coming weeks.

Stay strong. Enjoy your summer and remember, we are Huskies! And, Huskies. Never. Quit!

Forward Together,

Vernese Edghill-Walden
Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Chief Diversity Officer
Interim Chief Human Resource Officer

Provost sends message to students on fall course delivery modalities

Provost sends message to students on fall course delivery modalities

NIU Executive Vice President and Provost Beth Ingram communicated to current and incoming students about the ways the university will be delivering courses for fall semester 2020.

Dear Undergraduate and Graduate Students,

I hope you are enjoying your summer. Here at NIU, our faculty have been busy planning your courses for the fall semester, and are eager to welcome you back to campus. Because the pandemic is still ongoing, we have had to adjust course-delivery methods for the fall semester. Most of those changes have now been made, and I encourage you to look closely at your course schedule in MyNIU.

If you have questions, want to make changes to your schedule or haven’t yet registered for your fall courses, please seek guidance right away from your advisors.
They’ll be able to answer your questions and help you make scheduling adjustments, if needed.

While the academic calendar for the fall is unchanged, the course-delivery modifications that we’ve made are guided by our top priority—the health and safety of our NIU community. To provide a safe and engaging learning environment that respects physical distancing, we will offer a mix of fully online, face-to-face and hybrid courses when classes begin Monday, Aug. 24.

Course delivery
Regardless of the way the course is offered, we’re intent on delivering the same high-quality academic experience you expect from NIU. Our faculty are committed to helping students learn, succeed and stay on target for their planned graduation dates.

So, what will your courses look like?

  • Online courses – Fully online courses are being designed with careful planning to be flexible and to foster a sense of community so that students are not learning on their own. In these courses, you might experience live conferencing and lectures; recorded content with no required meeting; or some combination of the two. In all cases, students and their professors will have an active presence in the virtual classroom.
  • Face-to-face courses – These courses will be like what you’ve experienced in the past. Courses selected to be face-to-face—including laboratory classes and clinicals—require personal interactions, and the class sizes are small enough, or the academic spaces large enough, to maintain proper physical distancing.
  • Hybrid courses – In hybrid courses, your learning experience will include both online and face-to-face interactions. For example, a science or engineering course might have online lessons with regular hands-on laboratory experiences.

In all cases during the semester where face-to-face interactions will take place, classrooms and academic spaces on campus will be disinfected before students and professors meet. NIU will follow federal, state and local public health guidance and expect students and faculty to follow recommendations for physical distancing, hand hygiene and face covering. Our plan also allows for a smooth transition to completely online teaching and learning should the need arise during the semester.

Committed to your success
The summer months provide us with time to carefully plan for the fall. I assure you that we’re making the most of that time. The plan I’ve outlined here builds upon what we learned this past spring—and on student feedback. Since the pandemic began, many NIU faculty members have attended workshops and training sessions to sharpen their online- and hybrid-teaching skills, and training sessions continue this summer.

Their efforts speak to how deeply they care about your success. While the start of the fall semester will be different from the past, all of us are committed to making sure that it’s personalized, fun, engaging and inclusive.

Still time to register
Your time at NIU has been a wise investment—in yourself. And we’re here to help you stay on track to earn your degree and graduate on time. Again, if you have not yet registered or need to adjust your fall course schedule, I urge you to seek assistance from your advisor. 

Students who might be eligible for disability-related exam or course accommodations are urged to contact the Disability Resource Center as soon as possible at drc@niu.edu. If you are in need of non-academic resources, contact the Student Assistance Center at studentassistance@niu.edu.

Additionally, we will continue to keep you updated this summer on important information as it develops. Look for a communication next week related to on-campus housing.

Finally, I’m reminded of three words that have come to define our community spirit: Huskies. Never. Quit. During these uncertain times, I congratulate you for having pressed on. Now, more than ever, it’s important to continue your academic journey. Our NIU community is here to support you every step of the way.

Sincerely,

Beth Ingram
Executive Vice President and Provost

 

Provost sends message to students on fall course delivery modalities

Real Impact: Student Emergency Fund keeps NIU students in school

When the COVID-19 crisis first hit, NIU sophomore Robert Hodges says he felt like he might be living in an alternate universe.

“Losing both my jobs in one week’s span, that’s something you see in the movies,” he says.

But Robert’s predicament was very real–a fact that became abundantly clear once he found himself relying on the generosity of friends for his next meal.

It didn’t take long for Robert to realize that he needed to figure things out quickly in order to hang on to the progress he’d made toward his NIU degree. He proudly explains that he’s nearing the finish line on his gen eds and about to declare an education major.

“But this threatened to change everything,” he says.

Like thousands of Huskies whose lives were turned upside down by the COVID-19 crisis, Robert Hodges turned to his pack for help.  He applied for, and received, a grant from the NIU Student Emergency Fund that allowed him to buy groceries and make the trip home to Chicago to check on his mother who had also lost her job as a result of the pandemic. “It’s always been just us,” he says. “This whole thing has been unreal.”

In partnership with the NIU Foundation, the university established the Student Emergency Fund in early April to help degree-seeking students stay in school, successfully finish the semester and plan for the future despite setbacks caused by emergency situations such as those presented during the current crisis.

In that short time, the university was able to provide emergency grants to more than 3,000 students like Robert, students with urgent needs such as food, transportation, housing, medical bills not covered by insurance, and technology to access online classes.

“NIU students are working hard to maintain their commitment to their education, while balancing huge challenges,” says Renique Kersh, Associate Vice Provost for Student Engagement and Success. “Our hope is that we can help them continue on their degree paths.”

Since receiving the grant, Robert has spent his time keeping up with his classes and searching for work. And, things are looking up. He reports that he was able to land a position at AutoZone just a few days ago.

On the academic front, Robert explains he’s using the transition to online learning as an opportunity to work on his “self-discipline and consistency.”

Amid this surreal crisis, Robert says he’s learned a lot. “This money made me see how much people care about the students here at NIU. That’s what’s up. That’s what’s real.”

“We are very grateful for the early and important gifts we’ve received from Huskies who are in a position to give right now,” says Catherine Squires, Vice President for University Advancement and President and CEO of the NIU Foundation.  “We want to help all of our students as they persevere in the face of emergencies, hardship, and obstacles to degree completion.”

To those who lent a helping hand when he desperately needed it, Robert says: “I would just like to say thank you, 100 percent, thank you. This will get me through.”

He plans to return in the fall to continue working toward his goal of becoming an English teacher.

Donations to the NIU Student Emergency Fund can be made online or via payroll deduction through the NIU Foundation. One hundred percent of all gifts will be used to provide direct support to students in need.

NOTE: As of Friday, April 17, the number of requests being processed from the Student Emergency Fund had exceeded the available funding.  The University has paused the application at this time, but will continue to provide updates on this site as additional funds become available.  Students with other non-financial concerns related to food, housing, etc., please take a moment to review the resources available or contact the Center for Student Assistance at studentassistance@niu.edu or 815-753-8300.

This article originally appeared in NIU Today, Tuesday, April 27.