Is This Dr. Baker's Final Lesson?

Jun 23, 2017

The NIU community is still processing and trying to make sense of President Doug Baker’s resignation.

And don’t worry, I am not here to impose my own opinion on you. There are plenty of opinions to go around. What I do want, however, is to do what educators always do—identify and extract the teachable moment.

No matter where you stand with regards to this crisis, one thing is undeniable: President Baker’s final decision as the leader of our university demonstrates and puts into action what we expect from our leaders.

In his official statement to the university, Dr. Baker recognized that optics is everything, especially when it involves a public institution and public money.

We could continue to quibble about the details of what happened and why, but that is unimportant. What is important is what people see and how that impacts the effectiveness and the reputation of the institution.

And President Baker clearly knows this. Deciding to step down was, no doubt, a very difficult decision; but it was, as he himself described it, the right decision.

This important lesson, however, appears to be lost on the leaders of both our state and national governments. Optics matter.

At the state level, we are headed into the third year without a budget; at the national level the President of the United States is under investigation for obstruction of justice.

President Baker might have just taken the lead in showing us how leadership needs to be done.

I’m David Gunkel, and that’s my perspective.