EIU-UPI to join rallies in Chicago

Ralliers+assemble+at+the+Coles+County+Courthouse+after+marching+from+the+Library+Quad+on+March+9.

Jason Howell

Ralliers assemble at the Coles County Courthouse after marching from the Library Quad on March 9.

Analicia Haynes, Administration Editor

Students and faculty members from Eastern plan to participate in rallies for higher education funding Friday in Chicago organized by the University Professionals of Illinois, a statewide union that includes Eastern professors.

Friday will kick off with a rally at noon in front of Chicago State University and end with another rally at 4 p.m. at the Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph St., Chicago.

Billy Hung, media coordinator for Eastern’s UPI chapter, said the UPI is providing two buses for people from Eastern to attend the rally.

Buses for the event will be at Lot W, north of Fourth Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Charleston, at 7:30 a.m. Friday.

Hung said the rallies are for the seven UPI chapters to form a coordinated response in fighting for the survival of their respective campuses.

“We really need to get together and pull our resources together and coordinate better and stick with one voice, because it is a lot easier to ignore each individual campus,” Hung said.   “It will be harder to ignore us if all seven of us are speaking up at once and showing up in numbers and devoting time to being active and engaged.”

UPI covers seven campus chapters including all public universities in Illinois except for the University of Illinois school system and the Southern Illinois school system.

“If we just fight on our own, each of us are not strong enough to really get some political change to happen,” Hung said. “I’m very happy that our campuses are coming together.”

Hung said the president of the statewide UPI union, John Miller from Western Illinois University, put the idea to unite and rally out there for the members to respond to.

Hung said Miller has been working to coordinate and build a coalition with other organizations not just within the union, but also with other unions, non-union organizations geared toward social services, and public services and private schools.

“This is one of the outcomes after months at work, so trying to kind of make this event happen and draw in as many partners and allies we can find,” Hung said. “This issue affects everyone in Illinois.”

Hung said the Chicago Teacher’s Union will also be doing a strike that day to protest the deliberate starving of the finances of public schools in Chicago.

Hung said although Eastern’s UPI members are in the process of trying to get more people to sign up for Friday’s protest, they have also been reaching out to other unions including AFSCME and everyone in the Charleston community.

Hung said he thinks the people in Charleston, from retired professors to high school teachers, are supportive of Eastern and want to be able to contribute to making the situation improve.

“They’re pretty angry,” Hung said. “So we’re reaching out to them and asking them to come join us in this protest.”

However, Hung said the budgetary impasse that has held Illinois captive for nearly nine months is more of a political issue than a budget issue.

Hung said Illinois residents are paying the government in taxes, and there is a flow of money.

Hung said the issue is the prioritization of politicians and the series of decisions made by lawmakers, which is not a budget problem.

Hung said the solution is not to fire people, raise tuition or reduce the school’s stopping level.

Although those decisions are essential to keep the university running right now, Hung said they are a reaction to the crisis, rather than a solution.

“The true solution is to be politically active,” Hung said. “That’s what this rally is about, we need to flex our political muscle and make our voices be heard.”

Hung said he wants to see more students be politically engaged and aware of issues such as the budget impasse.

“If you look at the student population of Charleston, we have about 8,500, and if we all register to vote and have 75 percent voter turnout, then the students can run the city,” Hung said. “Imagine how powerful that would be and all it takes is for people to become engaged.”

Hung said the rally is important for more than just getting the politicians to listen to citizens and do their jobs; it is a chance for the faculty to lead by example and give a demonstration of civic engagement.

“I tell my students when they graduate your going to be the voice of the future and you’re going to change the world,” Hung said. “I can’t expect them to do it if I don’t do anything. If I just sit on my hands and complain.”

Hung said he is hoping the rallies and protest will be enough to inspire some students to pay more attention to what is going on because knowledge and information is power.

Because the rallies and protest take place during the day, some professors will cancel class to participate.

“It is up to each faculty member to make that decision, and I really want to explain that class is a big commitment to faculty,” Hung said. “We take our classes seriously and every one of them is reluctant to cancel class.”

Graduate Coordinator Sace Elder said they are going to Chicago because that is where the issue will receive the most attention.

Elder said she is angry that the budget issue has gone on for this long and wants students, faculty and staff who are just as angry to just get on the bus.

“Today the power we have is the power of numbers,” Elder said. “This is what democracy looks like.”

UPI will need a head count of people participating by Tuesday afternoon. Anyone can join and sign up at https://goo.gl/z4DwpH

 

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