Why you should be sad to see VP Banis go

    Bienen, Banis and Sunshine at the ASG forum in April 2009. North by Northwestern stock photo.

    Before Morty-mania hit campus this fall, university officials rarely assumed celebrity status. But with the recent announcement that William J. Banis, current VP for Student Affairs is planning to retire by August 31, 2011, the Northwestern community has had the opportunity to take a closer look at his accomplishments and contributions to the University.

    Provost Daniel Linzer’s detailed the specifics of Banis’s 16-year tenure in a university-wide announcement Monday: the updates he made, the programs he added, the centers he created and the services he expanded.

    So why didn’t we give him an affectionate nickname, chanting it at football games and using it in every-day conversation? His accomplishments over the past 16 years may very well have warranted it. But while most students were unavoidably kept at a distance from his office, certain individuals frequently had the chance to bounce ideas off of him.

    So maybe we never fell in love with Banis quite like we’ve taken to Morty…

    Recently-elected ASG president Claire Lew found herself meeting with Banis weekly over the course of her various involvements within ASG.

    “He has a tough job,” she said. “He’s put in a position where it’s tough to make every person happy.”

    But looking at the contributions listed in Linzer’s announcement, he may very well have risen to such an assuming challenge, overseeing a number of improvements that have since come to define the Northwestern experience for students all across the board, including: orientation and parent programs, judicial affairs; Greek life; the LGBT resource center; multicultural, Hispanic/Latino and Asian/Asian American student affairs; the Life Skills Center addition to CAPS and the information technology unit.

    These programs, and others like them, have set up Northwestern for continued growth — something that’s come to define this campus over the past few years. We’re pushing forward from all ends, challenging the university and its principles in ways that may not have been possible had it not been for the contributions of Banis and his team. One example: think the recent expansion of minority recruitment efforts by students.

    Add that to the chutzpah brought in by President Schapiro and the future looks bright for student life at Northwestern, providing they find the right person to fill the void.

    “I definitely think he’s done a great job and he understands student life here a lot more than students think,” said past ASG president Mike McGee.

    Both Lew and McGee agree that whoever takes over needs to be able to keep the lines of communication open between student representatives like those in ASG and the office of Student Affairs. To keep doing their jobs, as representatives of the Northwestern student body, he or she will have to do theirs, giving direct feed-back and stay in-tune to life at Northwestern; and, as they found with Banis most recently this year, keeping the workings of the position transparent and open to suggestions. This year, for example, Banis gave ASG the opportunity to review the annual Student Affairs Office’s Strategic Plan.

    As for Banis, Lew and McGee found him to be both passionate about working with students and accessible. According to Lew, he was able to see what she calls “the bigger picture” – improving student life at Northwestern, essentially the name of the job.

    “He’s just incredibly committed to the students and committed to improving the Northwestern experience,” she said.

    So maybe we never fell in love with Banis quite like we’ve taken to Morty. But in looking back on what he contributed to Northwestern, we should see that the foundation has been laid, giving us the opportunity to keep pushing forward.


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