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To Save Higher Education in Illinois

By Leo Welch, Legislative Officer, IL AAUP

The “To Save Higher Education” rally was held at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield on February 8, 2017. The rally was organized by the Illinois Coalition to Invest in Higher Education largely through the efforts of the University of Illinois.

The Illinois Coalition to Invest in Higher Education represents public universities and public community colleges as well as private colleges and universities. Private colleges and universities receive state funding as well as public schools especially in MAP Grant funding. Of the invited speakers from the Illinois house and senate, five of them graduated from different private universities. Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth graduated from Illinois Central College in East Peoria.

The University Professionals of Illinois, an IFT union representing most of the public universities, provided major faculty support at the rally. There was no state-wide IFT community college representation. The IEA was represented by the newest IEA unit president from SIUE.

Linda Brookhart of the State University Annuitants Association (SUAA) was an invited speaker. All of the speakers were supportive of higher education, but most pointed comments came from Kim Archer, SIUE/IEA faculty union president, who reminded listeners of the budgets that Governor Rauner has vetoed and his so-called “Turnaround Agenda” that would abolish unions in Illinois.

Liz Brown, who lobbies for the Community College Presidents’ Council, gave the closing remarks, which were not specific to community colleges.

The standing-room-only crowd contained a significant number of students from private universities. At least eight different media outlets were filming the speeches. Bottom line—a lot of nice words, but WE NEED ACTION, NOW. After the rally, I had to clean about three inches of snow off my car and drive back to Belleville on icy roads.