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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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University President Michael Schill talks athletics, affirmative action at fireside chat with staff

Jacob Wendler/Daily Senior Staffer
About 100 staff members attended the fireside chat with University President Michael Schill in Norris University Center Tuesday afternoon.

University President Michael Schill shared priorities and goals for his second year at Northwestern with a group of approximately 100 staff members Tuesday afternoon at Norris University Center.

Throughout the hourlong talk, Schill touched on the hazing scandal in the NU Football team this summer, the Supreme Court’s ruling on affirmative action, and staff retention and culture, among other topics raised in questions submitted by community members.

The fireside chat was organized by the NU Staff Advisory Council and moderated by Vice President for Human Resources and Chief Human Resources Officer Lorraine Goffe.

Schill said the University has focused on inclusion, pipeline programs to recruit students of diverse backgrounds and new admissions essays in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision prohibiting race-conscious admissions.

NU rolled out new admissions essays earlier this year that capture how applicants’ identities have impacted their experiences within the bounds of the legal ruling.

“We will use those essay questions to the extent that we can, but I don’t want to sugarcoat it,” Schill said. “I always like to set expectations, because I think my credibility is important to the community, and I think that this is going to be hard — particularly in the early years.”

University spokesperson Hilary Hurd Anyaso told The Daily last month that the new essays were crafted to “help applicants learn more about Northwestern in the process of helping us better understand who they are, where they come from, and what matters to them.”

Schill said his experience as dean of UCLA Law School after Proposition 209 outlawed the use of race in admissions in California public universities was “a bit of a bloodbath” but that he’s hopeful his experience at NU will be different.

Schill also emphasized the importance of working with predominantly nonwhite community colleges to prepare students with diverse backgrounds to transfer to NU. He said he plans to meet with community college chancellors in the coming weeks.

Goffe also asked Schill about his response to the allegations of hazing in NU’s football program this summer that led Schill to fire head coach Pat Fitzgerald in July.

Schill began by acknowledging that the recent months have been “an extraordinarily difficult time for the University” and that his decisions — such as initially suspending Fitzgerald for just two weeks — were not met with universal approval by the NU community.

“I think what was so difficult for people is, our view of ourselves is one of exceptionalism … And we have to do a correction,” he said. “Because I do believe that we are exceptional. And I do believe that the goal should be exceptionalism.”

Schill also assured staff members that lawsuits related to the scandal will not impact the University’s financial health. 

Fitzgerald filed a $130 million wrongful termination lawsuit against NU and Schill last week, and the University faces two separate lawsuits from former football players for alleged negligence.

“We’re going to have to find a way to pay for them … but it’s not going to fundamentally change this institution,” Schill said. “And one of the things I’ve said repeatedly … is I had 10 priorities, and I’m committed to each one of those priorities … and I see no reason why we can’t continue that. We just have to be smart about how we go about it.”

Goffe said fireside chats with the president will be hosted annually in future years.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jacob_wendler

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