After the jump are .png versions of our SEIU solidarity signs – options for students, campus labor, grad employees, general, and more!
1. Email State Senator Mike Frerichs (email@example.com) and State Senator Martin Sandoval (firstname.lastname@example.org) and express your support for the work they are doing to ensure that the University remains accessible to working-class and middle-class people. Tell them to keep the pressure on the Board of Trustees!
2. Come to the Illinois Student Senate on Wednesday, May 5th, at 7pm in the Illini Union Pine Lounge and support GEO member and Student Senator Rich Potter’s resolution in support of a Tuition Freeze! In advance of the meeting, contact your student senator and ask them to support the resolution.
3. Sign Prof. Bruce Rosenstock’s petition in support of an ethical financial policy and tuition freeze online! (http://www.gopetition.com/online/35805.html)
4. Write a Letter to the Editor of either the Daily Illini or News Gazette explaining your concern about the prospect of a tuition increase and in support of the ongoing initiatives by State Senators, students, and community members to ensure that the university remains accessible!
5. Attend the Rally and CFA Press Conference on May 5th at 12:15 pm on the steps of Swanlund Administration Building. CFA members will be raising questions about the ethics of the Administrations funding priorities raised by the breaking news that they will be paying close to half a million dollars to an outside consulting agency. (See, http://www.news-gazette.com/news/university-illinois/2010-05-03/consultants-bring-450000-more-work-ui.html)
Together we can stop the hikes and demand ethical financial policies!
Members of the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), the Undergraduate-Graduate Alliance (UGA), and the Campus Faculty Association (CFA), joined roughly 15,000 Illinois residents and union members on April 21 for “Lobby Day” in the state capitol. Forming one of the largest rallies in Illinois’ history, participants marched around the statehouse holding signs reading “S.O.S.” and chanting “Save our state! Save our schools!” The state of Illinois currently faces a $13 billion deficit and owes the University of Illinois system over $400 million in unpaid bills. The GEO previously published an open letter to University of Illinois administrators calling on them to join the GEO in Springfield. The letter reiterated the GEO’s commitment “to ensuring that the University of Illinois remain true to its mission as a public land grant institution to provide education that is truly accessible to all, regardless of economic background.”
While some GEO members participated in the rally, others delivered the union’s message to legislators in their offices and at the statehouse. The GEO’s lobbying and legislative action committee’s platform included support for HB 174, which would modernize the Illinois tax system and raise over $5 billion in revenue directed toward educational spending. GEO co-president Stephanie Seawell, who participated in rally, said, “The state has been increasingly underfunding the University for decades, and much of the shortfall has been made up with rising tuition and fees. That logic is unsustainable. We’re seeing a steady drop in the number of middle class families who don’t qualify for student aid but can’t afford to send their children to college. This doesn’t just affect the career prospects of those students, but the economic viability of the state as we move into the future.”
In addition to advocating for increased tax revenue, the GEO supports any legislation that helps to eliminate undue political influence in the granting of scholarships. Currently, the GEO opposes HB 4706, which would strip 50% tuition waivers for children of University employees. “Those waivers often go to first generation college students and expand their career opportunities. Luckily, that bill appears to be dead in the House,” said Mukta Tripathy, a graduate employee and co-chair of the lobbying and legislative action committee. “Instead of cutting those waivers, we’d like to see the legislature pass SB 4702,” which would eliminate General Assembly scholarships.
The unprecedented turn out at this rally overwhelmed the state house with advocates for public education, so the GEO and UGA were only able to talk to a few of the legislators. “We left informational packets in their offices, spoke with a couple of staffers, and made some mostly unsuccessful attempts to call representatives from the House floor,” said Ben Rothschild, a member of the UGA. “It was frustrating,” said Rich Potter, of the GEO. “I do want to thank Rep. Rose, who came off the floor and spoke candidly with us and members of the CFA. He indicated that he won’t support a revenue increase until it’s packaged with spending cuts. I can appreciate his concern for a balanced budget, but I’m not sure there’s time to wait. The University’s reputation for excellence is at risk.” Seawell says the GEO is already planning to follow-up with legislators and continue the GEO’s lobbying efforts.
The Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), AFT/IFT Local 6300, AFL-CIO, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is a labor union representing approximately 2700 Teaching and Graduate Assistants on the UIUC Campus. In November 2009, over 1,000 GEO members successfully went on strike to secure a fair contract and more accessible UIUC. With events like lobby day, the GEO continues to work for high quality and accessible public education in Illinois.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS UC UNITED COALITION STAGES 300 PERSON MARCH AND RALLY FOR MARCH 4TH NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION TO DEFEND PUBLIC EDUCATION
UC United Coalition challenges University of Illinois administration to follow example of Southern Illinois University in freezing tuition
URBANA-CHAMPAIGN (March 4) – On March 4, 2010, over 300 members of the UC United Coalition of students, workers, and faculty staged a march and rally for an accessible, diverse, and democratic University of Illinois of Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) on the UIUC campus as part of the March 4th National Day of Action to Defend Public Education. Rally participants marched from the campus’ Alma Mater statue and around the entire Liberal Arts and Sciences Quad before staging a rally in front of the Swanlund Administration Building.
State funding for public education has been decreasing for years, and the University of Illinois administration has consistently accepted budget cuts as it transforms the University into a privatized and corporatized institution. The UC United Coalition will be present at the April 21st lobbying day in Springfield, and we call on the University of Illinois administration to join us in not only pleading with the state to avoid further cuts, but in demanding that public education be recognized as vital for the future prosperity of the state and funded accordingly.
The major burden of the lack of state funding has been placed on low income workers and students, rather than on bloated administrative units and salaries. Speakers at the rally called for a tuition and fee freeze in the face of University of Illinois Interim President Ikenberry’s recent statements that significant tuition increases, layoffs and furloughs are inevitable and necessary responses to the shortfall in Illinois state funding for the University.
The planned tuition increase will functionally transform the University of Illinois into a private institution that funds almost all of its instruction and research through tuition. This is completely contrary to the mission of the University as a public, land grant institution.
Without direct action in support of public education, higher education in the state of Illinois will be available only to the wealthy. As Susan Davis, CFA Executive Committee member and Professor in the Department of Communication said, the University of Illinois administration’s policy “places the burden of the current budget shortfall on personnel and students.”
The University of Illinois administration’s claim that tuition increases, layoffs, and furloughs are a necessary response to the state budget shortfall is especially disappointing given that President Glenn Poshard of Southern Illinois University (SIU) has pledged that SIU will not increase tuition. SIU will instead explore other options to weather the shortfall including borrowing and drawing on University reserves. President Poshard told Codell Rodriguez of The Southern on March 4 that “financial troubles have been on the backs of middle to low income families for too long.”
UC United Coalition members agree. Because Illinois citizens, students and low paid workers are suffering the most from the current economy, “it doesn’t make sense for the state to pull out of funding for higher education, and for the University to hike tuition and fees,” said Mukta Tripathy, Graduate Employees’ Organization Officer-at-Large.
Southern Illinois University faces an even more serious budget shortfall than the University of Illinois, as it receives a much higher percentage of its overall funding from the state. The UC United Coalition applauds President Ikenberry’s public opposition to state budget cuts and his efforts to mobilize alumni lobbying campaigns. However, these efforts are negated by the UI administration’s policies in response to existing cuts. Speaking at the rally, UC United Coalition and GEO representative Peter Campbell called on President Ikenberry to follow the leadership of President Poshard and refuse to solve Illinois’ budget problems on the backs of those people who are hardest hit by the recession.
The UC United Coalition demands transparency and accountability in budget decisions so that the University of Illinois administration can work with the campus community to find creative ways to address the budget shortfall. We reject the claim that there is no possibility of drawing on non-state revenue sources in the UI budget to fund instruction and personnel. For more information, please see the Graduate Employees’ Organization fact sheet “Myths and Facts about the University of Illinois Budget” attached to this release, which can also be downloaded at http://www.uigeo.org/2010/03/03/geo-disputes-administration-budget-claims-releases-ui-budget-myths-and-facts-document/.
The UC United Coalition includes the Graduate Employees’ Organization (AFT/IFT Local 6300, AFL-CIO), the Campus Labor Coalition, the Undergrad-Graduate Alliance, the Campus Faculty Association, La Colectiva, and the Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority. UC United demands that the University of Illinois (UI) administration center the priorities of the University of Illinois around access, diversity, democracy, and quality. Specifically, UC United calls for a tuition and fee freeze, an end to layoffs and furloughs of workers and faculty, a democratic campus with shared governance in policy decisions, the recruitment and retention of a diverse campus population of workers, students, and faculty that is truly representative of the State of Illinois, and transparency about the UI budget. The UC United Coalition also calls for progressive state and federal funding for all levels of public education.
For more information about the UC United Coalition, the March 4 rally, and other upcoming events, please visit our event page at uicrisis.org and/or contact any of the following representatives: Peter Campbell, GEO Communications Officer, 253-222-5861, email@example.com, uigeo.org; Harriet Murav, Campus Faculty Association, 217-359-5394, and Jim Barret, Campus Faculty Association, 217-352-2714; Pete Rhomberg, Undergraduate-Graduate Alliance, (708) 828-9926, firstname.lastname@example.org.
RALLY: March 4, 2010 – assemble at Alma Mater at noon, march at 12:15, rally in front of Swanlund 12:30-12:50. Electronic versions of flyers and posters can be downloaded here. RSVP here, and see the event website here. A copy of the UC United Press release announcing the rally is available on this post after the jump.
Please join us for the UC United Coalition’s March 4th Rally for the Future of an Accessible, Diverse, and Democratic UIUC. The UIUC rally will be part of the March 4th National Day of Action to Defend Public Education (read the national calls). The GEO has officially endorsed the March 4th Day of Action, and we call on all GEO members to participate.
The UC United Coalition, which includes the GEO, the Campus Labor Coalition, the Campus Faculty Association, the Undergraduate-Graduate Alliance, La Colectiva, and the Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, demands a UIUC truly committed to access, diversity, democracy, and quality, and that the U of I administration stop pushing the burden of the budget shortfall down to workers and students.
While we worked incredibly hard last semester to win a contract that is already working to protect our members through the grievance process, the University administration is still moving toward a privatized future for UIUC that includes fewer graduate employees, larger class sizes, and less flexibility for graduate appointments. Campus units and departments are being forced to plan for drastic cuts that will significantly impact graduate employees, despite the fact that an independent audit from the American Association of University Professionals claims that the U of I financial situation is “strong,” and that these measures are in no way required by the current shortfall in state funding. Download a flyer summarizing the audit here.
We know more than anyone on campus that only through direct action can we continue to take back control of the direction of our University. Many of the members of the UC United Coalition walked with us on the lines – now their jobs and livelihoods are being threatened by irresponsible and non-transparent decisions by the UI administration – so let’s walk with them!
We worked long and hard to win an historic contract. Now let’s build on those gains – starting on March 4th!
UC United press release announcing the rally: