Fund EIU, Malak respond to Phillip’s comments

Analicia Haynes, Managing Editor

Members from the Fund EIU campaign and Dennis Malak, the Democratic candidate for representative, spoke out Tuesday against remarks made by Republican Representative Reggie Phillips Monday at his office hours.

Phillips said the Eastern enrollment statistics did not look good and negative publicity, caused by newspapers and Fund EIU, created the situation by painting the university in a negative light.

“We cried wolf so loud that the total focus was on us,” Phillips said in regards to the FundEIU rallies.

However, Kate Klipp, who helped give way to the movement but has since passed down the reins to students and faculty, said Fund EIU was intended to deliver a positive message.

“The only dooms saying or the only insinuation that Eastern would close probably came from (Eastern President) David Glassman during an appropriations meeting,” Klipp said.

Klipp was referring to an appropriations meeting the presidents of all nine Illinois public universities attended early last year.

“I remember watching the hearing (of the appropriations meeting) and President Glassman did mention that he wasn’t sure that Eastern would make it through (this past) spring semester without funding,” Malak said.

Klipp said she feels like Glassman has been backpedaling ever since that meeting.

“I find (this) unfortunate because I really feel like we were looking for a champion,” Klipp said. “Instead we have beauty pageant parents who rub Vaseline on our teeth and want us to smile even more.”

Malak agreed that the rally was a positive one with good intentions.

“Fund EIU was the hypnotist that really started putting pressure on Springfield,” Malak said. “It sparked a lot of rallies throughout the state and EIU was the leader in fighting for the funding of higher education.”

Klipp said Fund EIU was born when nothing was being done in the state during the budget stalemate that first began starving state universities last year.

“It was born as a very positive campaign to show the state that Eastern Illinois University is worth the investment,” Klipp said. “It just seems that the lack of higher education funding was a statement of no support from the state for the students and we didn’t find that acceptable.”

Yet, Phillips argued that Fund EIU should have included other Illinois public universities in their rallies such as Western and Chicago State.

Klipp said soon after the initial Fund EIU rally took place, multiple public state universities including Western and Chicago State contacted Fund EIU to help them get the same message out to Springfield.

Klipp said it was an incredibly collaborative effort that was aimed at rallying support to fund each university.

“We also worked with (Eastern’s chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois) at the state level to help get the message out,” Klipp said, referring to the rally the EIU-UPI participated in at Chicago last April.

Jack Cruikshank, a political science graduate student with Fund EIU, argued that it is a perception issue and one of the problems is that Fund EIU was one of the only groups in Illinois at the time who was making noise about the impasse.

“Of course we worked with other universities,” Cruikshank said. “Just because we were better at getting our message out doesn’t mean we should be punished for that.”

Cruikshank said the group was talking about why Eastern needed to be funded rather than claiming the school would be closed.

He added that Phillips mischaracterized the emotion around Fund EIU.

“If the world was ideal we would have had every state institution do the same thing on the same day, but that’s not the real world that we live in, so we took it into our own hands and got 3,000 people in a week’s notice,” Cruikshank said regarding the first Fund EIU rally.

Cruikshank, Malak and Klipp said the rally was a community effort to tell Springfield that Eastern and higher education needed a budget.

“To retroactively blame a group of people fighting for their jobs doesn’t seem right to me, especially since Rep. Phillips was the one tasked with maintaining the levels of funding to Eastern necessary to keep those jobs,” Cruikshank said. “It’s illogical to me that he would blame Fund EIU in this moment.”

As of right now, Fund EIU has no plans for rallies or demonstrations in the future.

Michael Kuo, an English professor with Fund EIU, said the group is surprised and saddened by Rep. Phillip’s remarks.

“His theory appears to be that drawing attention to Eastern last year resulted in parents deciding not to send their children here,” Kuo said in an open letter. “Rep. Phillips has not offered any evidence to support this theory. That’s because there is no such evidence.”

Kuo said the rallies, marches, letter writing campaigns and other activities Fund EIU sponsored last year increased enrollment.

He said many students told the group how much these activities helped them feel as though they were part of a vitalized, energetic campus community.

Malak said Fund EIU was the motivation students needed to go to Springfield and why he took several students to the state capitol to rally support for higher education.

Kuo pointed out that Rep. Phillips voted against funding for state universities several times last year.

“Not funding EIU undoubtedly affected our enrollment numbers. Rep. Phillips should be blaming himself, not his constituents,” Kuo said.

Phillips could not be reached for comment.

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