ISS launches letter campaign

By Nick Escobar

The Illinois Student Senate (ISS) is in the process of having students sign letters asking Springfield for additional money for the University.

ISS is trying to collect 3,000 letters to convince 177 state representatives and state senators that the University is important to the state. They also hope to convince the representatives and senators that the University is one of the largest economic centers in central Illinois.

Additionally, they would like to convince the legislators that the University provides the future work force of Illinois and that cutting the University’s budget can only hurt the future work force in the end, said Hassen Al-Shawaf, ISS senator and senior in LAS.

Al-Shawaf said the reason ISS has decided to take action is because the state cannot rely on students to cover state budget shortfalls.

The letter also states that “my peers continually vote for tuition increases to cover the shortfall. I have become aware that I am now paying a greater proportion of my education than the state. The state’s lack of support to the Urbana-Champaign campus amounts to the privatization of the institution.” The letter goes on to state that legislators and the school need to develop a stronger relationship again.

“We did this last year too,” Al-Shawaf said. “This is the first year that the tuition increase passed state dollars.”

The letters state that access to libraries, computer labs and critical maintenance projects are being affected by the state’s budget cuts. It also states that class sections and major renovations like that of Lincoln Hall are being postponed due to the cuts. Students have the option of writing in a comment box located at the bottom of the form on how budget cuts have affected them.

Mark Doerr, junior in LAS, signed the letter and passed out additional letters to members of his fraternity.

“I heard that they had been cutting budgets,” he said. “If the school declines, our degrees won’t be worth as much.”

ISS also plans to take the letters directly to the state’s senators during a rally that will occur once the House Committee on Higher Education Appropriations sets a date to discuss the University’s budget. Each student’s letter will be copied and personally handed to his or her state representative and state senator.

“We want to push (legislators) hard to remember U of I,” said Dan Nugent, external vice president of ISS and sophomore in ACES.

ISS will be stationed outside of the Illini Orange, the snack pavilion by the Six Pack, tomorrow to collect signatures.

The Division of Intercollegiate Athletics has given preliminary approval to ISS to ask people waiting in line outside Assembly Hall for the Feb. 23 basketball game against Northwestern to sign the petition. ISS has also been given preliminary approval to have an announcement read over the intercom during the game. Student senators will be outside after the game collecting signatures as well.

Al-Shawaf said ISS has already acquired more than 1,500 signatures by approaching students outside of classrooms and computer labs.

“We need to remind the legislature to take care of U of I,” Nugent said.