Students rally at state capital to voice their opinions on government

Analicia Haynes, Administration Editor


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The impending budget crisis and lack of funding for higher education united students from across the state and brought them to the steps of the capitol building Wednesday morning to rally support for Illinois colleges and universities.

Several student speakers gathered at the feet of the Abraham Lincoln statue where the rallies took place and shared their experiences with education and the struggles they now face.

Sara Bobek, a sophomore elementary education major at Northeastern Illinois University, was a speaker at the morning “pump-up” rally.

A Golden Apple Scholar, Bobek talked about her college experience transferring from a private school to a public one and why she needs funding.

“I’m giving my personal experience on what Northeastern means to me and what the city of Chicago and state of Illinois means to me,” Bobek said.

Bobek said NEIU has given her a better education and one that will prepare her for teaching in schools of need, particularly those in the Chicago public school system.

“I went to a private school my first year, Knox College, which was $50,000 a year,” Bobek said. “I had a good scholarship but still couldn’t afford it and now I’m $20K in debt and I have more debt from my first year at Knox than I will from all of my years at North Eastern.”

Bobek said attending Northeastern is the only way she can afford an education and not having funding for higher education is the foundation for an existential crisis.

Bobek said the budget crisis has put a damper on Illinois, damaged the working class and put students in a position where they do not have many options for success.

“Am I going to have to work full time at Target until I can figure out what I want to do with my life,” Bobek said. “That is the situation that the budget crisis is putting thousands of us in.”

Biance Alebiosu, an art studio major at Chicago State University, said the situation at her school and in the state is heart breaking.

Alebiosu said it has taken students so much to get to where they are at in their education only to have what they have worked for taken away.

“It’s like we’re not important,” Alebiosu said.

Akeem Forbes, another guest speaker from Eastern, said the politicians need to get up and do something.

Forbes started the GoFundMe campaign that raised funds for the buses that transported Eastern students to Springfield and said he believes the presence of students has put pressure on the legislature.

“It’s important to fight because who else is going to fight,” Forbes said.

Forbes said he is fed up with both party’s inability to compromise and said Rauner needs to set aside his ego and work with the legislature.

“He’s the king, sitting comfortably,” Forbes said. “He doesn’t realize he is hurting education and ruining the economy.”

After the commencement of the first “pump-up” rally, students peacefully blitzed the Capitol Building and collected in front of the Senate Chamber doors.

Marching around the rotunda, they chanted “fund our schools” and “no budget, no peace” in unison while Rauner gave his speech for the 2017 budget proposal.

Rauner only addressed funding for K-12 education and did not mention higher education in his speech.

Michael Frerichs, the state treasurer, said the governor asked the General Assembly to send him a peace meal budget that does not fund higher education.

“The governor insists on getting his turn around agenda, and that’s his priority,” Frerichs said. “Funding higher education is apparently not a priority for Rauner.”

Frerichs said funding for poor people to go to college, referring to the MAP grants, is also not a priority for Rauner.

However, Frerichs said there is always a way for the legislature and the governor to compromise.

Gage Dailey, a sophomore communication studies major, said the budget situation affects not only Eastern but also businesses in Charleston.

“It makes no sense to choose to not fund public education,” Dailey said. “It’s so hypocritical to say you want to make jobs but force universities to nearly close down.”

Zach Samples, a graduate student at Eastern, said the situation is tough.

“Folks on the right and folks on the left have to give in a little, and both sides need to compromise,” Samples said. “We’re doing our part and it’s time for them to their part and meet in the middle.”

The “study sit-in,” organized by students from the University of Illinois, did not happen.

Although most students did not partake in the sit-in, Eastern students pulled out their laptops and books and did homework.

Heather Moore, a senior communication studies major, said Eastern students still participated in the sit-in because they still have classes and academic priorities.

“Everyone has different priorities,” Moore said. “We’re doing our job, they (the legistlators) are not doing theirs.”

Moore said the rallies matter and to shut down something, such as universities that are important to people, is horrible.

“He (Rauner) is creating an educational desert,” Moore said.

The second rally took place at 2 p.m. shortly after an impromptu rally happened in front of the Capitol Building.

The rally, with speakers from the University of Illinois, focused on promoting a different piece of legislation called the Access to College and Career-Education for Statewide Success (A.C.C.E.S.S.) bill.

The bill will allow undocumented students to apply for scholarships in four Illinois public universities, according to the A.C.C.E.S.S website.


Analicia Haynes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]