- Posted March 4, 2010 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Schools in trouble
UC-United March 4th Rally at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- zdan, CNN iReport producer
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS UC UNITED COALITION STAGES 300 PERSON MARCH AND RALLY FOR MARCH 4TH NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION TO DEFEND PUBLIC EDUCATION
UC United Coalition challenges University of Illinois administration to follow example of Southern Illinois University in freezing tuition
URBANA-CHAMPAIGN (March 4) - On March 4, 2010, over 300 members of the UC United Coalition of students, workers, and faculty staged a march and rally for an accessible, diverse, and democratic University of Illinois of Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) on the UIUC campus as part of the March 4th National Day of Action to Defend Public Education. Rally participants marched from the campus' Alma Mater statue and around the entire Liberal Arts and Sciences Quad before staging a rally in front of the Swanlund Administration Building.
State funding for public education has been decreasing for years, and the University of Illinois administration has consistently accepted budget cuts as it transforms the University into a privatized and corporatized institution. The UC United Coalition will be present at the April 21st lobbying day in Springfield, and we call on the University of Illinois administration to join us in not only pleading with the state to avoid further cuts, but in demanding that public education be recognized as vital for the future prosperity of the state and funded accordingly.
The major burden of the lack of state funding has been placed on low income workers and students, rather than on bloated administrative units and salaries. Speakers at the rally called for a tuition and fee freeze in the face of University of Illinois Interim President Ikenberry's recent statements that significant tuition increases, layoffs and furloughs are inevitable and necessary responses to the shortfall in Illinois state funding for the University.
The planned tuition increase will functionally transform the University of Illinois into a private institution that funds almost all of its instruction and research through tuition. This is completely contrary to the mission of the University as a public, land grant institution.
Without direct action in support of public education, higher education in the state of Illinois will be available only to the wealthy. As Susan Davis, CFA Executive Committee member and Professor in the Department of Communication said, the University of Illinois administration’s policy “places the burden of the current budget shortfall on personnel and students.”
The University of Illinois administration's claim that tuition increases, layoffs, and furloughs are a necessary response to the state budget shortfall is especially disappointing given that President Glenn Poshard of Southern Illinois University (SIU) has pledged that SIU will not increase tuition. SIU will instead explore other options to weather the shortfall including borrowing and drawing on University reserves. President Poshard told Codell Rodriguez of The Southern on March 4 that "financial troubles have been on the backs of middle to low income families for too long."
UC United Coalition members agree. Because Illinois citizens, students and low paid workers are suffering the most from the current economy, “it doesn’t make sense for the state to pull out of funding for higher education, and for the University to hike tuition and fees,” said Mukta Tripathy, Graduate Employees' Organization Officer-at-Large.
Southern Illinois University faces an even more serious budget shortfall than the University of Illinois, as it receives a much higher percentage of its overall funding from the state. The UC United Coalition applauds President Ikenberry's public opposition to state budget cuts and his efforts to mobilize alumni lobbying campaigns. However, these efforts are negated by the UI administration's policies in response to existing cuts. Speaking at the rally, UC United Coalition and GEO representative Peter Campbell called on President Ikenberry to follow the leadership of President Poshard and refuse to solve Illinois' budget problems on the backs of those people who are hardest hit by the recession.
The UC United Coalition demands transparency and accountability in budget decisions so that the University of Illinois administration can work with the campus community to find creative ways to address the budget shortfall. We reject the claim that there is no possibility of drawing on non-state revenue sources in the UI budget to fund instruction and personnel.
The UC United Coalition includes the Graduate Employees' Organization (AFT/IFT Local 6300, AFL-CIO), the Campus Labor Coalition, the Undergrad-Graduate Alliance, the Campus Faculty Association, La Colectiva, and the Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority. UC United demands that the University of Illinois (UI) administration center the priorities of the University of Illinois around access, diversity, democracy, and quality. Specifically, UC United calls for a tuition and fee freeze, an end to layoffs and furloughs of workers and faculty, a democratic campus with shared governance in policy decisions, the recruitment and retention of a diverse campus population of workers, students, and faculty that is truly representative of the State of Illinois, and transparency about the UI budget. The UC United Coalition also calls for progressive state and federal funding for all levels of public education.