Students react to Springfield rally, Rauner’s speech

Members+of+Eastern%27s+delegation+hold+up+signs+at+the+Lincoln+Memorial+Statue+on+Wednesday+in+Springfield.

Jason Howell

Members of Eastern's delegation hold up signs at the Lincoln Memorial Statue on Wednesday in Springfield.

Analicia Haynes, Administration Editor

Hundreds of college students gathered in Springfield Wednesday and rallied to voice their concerns to lawmakers and raise awareness about the lack of funding for higher education and the Monetary Award Program grants.

Though many said they were satisfied by the turnout of the rally, several students, faculty and staff said they were disappointed with the lack of progress from lawmakers.

Richard Gonigam, a freshman molecular biology major from the University of Illinois, said he was impressed by the turnout.

“What’s disappointing is that people should be in class right now,” Gonigam said. “It’s time though, people have been too quiet and patient.”

Gonigam said in this situation the call to action needs to be ongoing pressure students need to put on legislators so they do not forget about funding higher education.

DreQuan Green, a freshman mathematics major, said seeing many people at the State Capitol trying to support Illinois was brilliant and powerful.

“These people did not have to take time out of their day just to support their school so it’s really powerful to see that they did,” Green said. “It shows that with enough dedication, just by coming here, we can make a change.”

Catie Witt, the executive vice president for Student Senate, said she thought the turnout was great.

“I think as students we did the best we could to get our point across,” Witt said. “We made Springfield look at us and realize that students do care and they do know what is happening.”

However, during his speech Wednesday, Gov. Bruce Rauner said he wants to make children’s education a top priority but did not mention funding for higher education.

Instead, he said he will not increase funding for K-12 education and asked members of the General Assembly to work together to enact a budget with a mix of reforms.

Robert Bioraz, the chapter president for the University Professionals of Illinois at Chicago State University, attended the rally and said the state does not need Rauner’s reforms.

“I don’t know what he’s trying to do,” Bioraz said. “He’s a multi-millionaire. What does he know?”

Witt said she wished she could have heard more about what Rauner wanted to compromise on rather than just what the state needs to do.

“Legislators know how important this is, but none of them know how to work together in order for action to be taken,” Witt said. “I wish I could have had more validation that my university would be safe.”

Jack Cruikshank, a junior political science major, said spending the day talking with members of the General Assembly gave him hope that something will happen soon in terms of funding.

“Even if no representative or senator would admit it, I believe our presence was able to change a few minds about the importance of funding higher education as soon as humanly possible,” Cruikshank said.

Rauner said on Tuesday that he would veto SB2043, which calls for $721 million in funding for higher education, including $373 million for MAP grants.

If the MAP grant is not funded, Green said, it will put him in a lot more debt.

“I’m going to have to transfer to another school if something bad happens to Eastern,” Green said. “I will probably have to go to Southern Illinois University but I don’t want to do that because that’s closer to home and I don’t want to be close to home.”

Green said he chose Eastern because wants the chance to meet new people who are not still connected with his hometown.

Charles Preston, a senior from Chicago State, lead a group of students from Chicago State and spoke at the rally.

“We’re not here to play with (lawmakers) like they play us,” Preston said. “They’ve been playing political chess with us.”

Emily Brelsfoard, a senior communication studies major at Eastern, said it is really hard to see people affected by the lack of funding.

“It’s so sad,” Brelsfoard said. “You want to be able to come back here in 50 years and bring your grandkids but that might not happen.”

Akeem Forbes, a senior English major, said Rauner will not budge and is only concerned about being a dictator over the state’s budget and spending the state’s money as he pleases without being sympathetic as to where the funds go.

Forbes said even though Rauner is not going to budge that does not mean members of Congress will not and students should call representatives, become educated on the issues going on and stand out.

“I think students should continue to push and make their voices heard,” Witt said. “Sometimes you may feel like giving up, or you may feel like nothing is getting accomplished, but sometimes it takes a little longer than a day to see the impact you have.”

Forbes said the rally has caused a stir on campus and students should not be afraid to voice their opinions.

He said the more who continue to voice their opinion on the issue the better.

“I believe it will take another trip, with a greater number of students from all over the state who are energetically charged for activism, ready and willing to be aggressive with government officials in order to get funds,” Forbes said.

 

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