Eastern students to rally for funding in Springfield


Jason Howell

A sign during the Fund EIU rally in the Library Quad on Feb. 5.

Stephanie Markham, Editor-in-Chief

More than 100 Eastern students are expected to join the rallies for higher education funding Wednesday in Springfield.

The Fund EIU group has been coordinating with the rallies’ organizers, including Chicago State University and the Young Invincibles non-profit organization, to include Eastern participation.

The two rallies are scheduled around Gov. Bruce Rauner’s annual budget address, which will be at noon Wednesday.

The rallies will be at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. near the Lincoln Memorial Statue.

Ralliers will be urging Rauner to sign SB2043, which is being sent to his desk Tuesday and proposes to spend $373 million for MAP Grants and about $324.4 million for community colleges.

Austin Mejdrich, a junior political science major and Fund EIU member, said he has been in contact with people from Chicago State and the University of Illinois and is expecting a sizeable turnout.

He said even though the University of Illinois has enough reserves to remain open, students from all across the state have realized the importance of the higher education funding issue.

“It’s really been a cross-campus thing, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there were representatives from a majority of universities in the state,” Mejdrich said.

Akeem Forbes, a junior English major, started a GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising $1,400 to send two buses of Eastern students to the rally; the goal was exceeded early Monday afternoon.

The Bales Unlimited bus company that Eastern uses to transport students to and from the Chicagoland area during breaks agreed to provide the buses at a discounted rate.

Forbes said the Fund EIU rally on Feb. 5 sparked conversations in his classes, and when students found out about the Springfield rallies, the first question they would ask is how they could attend if they did not have transportation.

Forbes took the issue to outlets like the student government that expressed a lack of funds needed to rent the buses. Forbes then took the initiative to contact local organizations and businesses to seek donations.

“Everyone started responding from there,” he said. “It just exploded.”

Students who wish to travel by bus can meet at the Java Beanery & Bakery in the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday before the buses depart at 8 a.m.

The buses will depart from Springfield at 4 p.m. and arrive back in Charleston between 6 and 7 p.m., and the group will stop for food after the second rally, Forbes said.

For more information about travel or to RSVP for a spot on the bus, Forbes said students can contact him via email at [email protected].

The two buses can take a total of 110 people, and students who wish to carpool and return by an earlier time can contact Forbes as well.

If enough interest and money is raised, sending a third bus is a possibility, he said.

Forbes is also hosting a “poster party” at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the ITC Lab, Room 1430 Buzzard Hall, for students to design or donate poster boards to be used as rally signs.

Forbes said one of his main concerns is for President David Glassman to address the university to remedy the climate of confusion on campus and encourage students to advocate for their right to an education.

“I just hope Glassman says something, and I hope he says something soon,” Forbes said. “Because it’s better to say something and to galvanize us and call us to action than wait for more catastrophe to hit. It’s like a storm is already in effect, and he’s the captain.”

Mejdrich said since the Fund EIU rally, the group has met with representatives such as Rep. Reggie Phillips, improved organization with more students and faculty advisers and maintained its message on social media.

“It’s questionable whether Eastern will open up in the fall,” he said. “The longer this budget standoff happens, the longer we don’t have a clean higher education appropriations bill, we’re looking at permanent damage to EIU.”

Mejdrich said he was not surprised to see so many students want to get involved in the Springfield rallies after the rally at Eastern drew such a large crowd.

“I’m constantly blown away by the amount of support that’s continuously been coming out,” Mejdrich said. “But people recognize that this is really a big deal, that we’ve got to push for some change.”


Stephanie Markham can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]