UI heads to Capitol for budget increase

By Caroline Kim

SPRINGFIELD – Nine University students drove to Springfield Thursday to raise awareness of the need for more money for the University from the Illinois General Assembly.

The students went to the governor’s mansion to drop off a doorknob that came off in the hands of one University student in Lincoln Hall, indicating the campus building renovations that need to take place. The students also delivered a letter written by the Governmental Affairs Committee of the Illinois Student Senate (ISS) asking for a higher budget.

The share of state tax appropriations in the past 25 fiscal years has decreased from a little more than $1 billion in 1980 to about $658 million in 2005, according to the University of Illinois’ 2006 Budget Request.

“The (Illinois) government has a history of making budget cuts for the University of Illinois,” said Ryan Ruzic, sophomore in LAS and co-president of ISS. “They need to know how much these cuts are hurting students.”

Adam Blahnik, senior in LAS and a former ISS member, said he opened a first-floor classroom door at Lincoln Hall when the doorknob came off.

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    “(The doorknob) literally fell off in my hand,” Blahnik said.

    He said he wanted to do something unique by sending him the doorknob.

    “This is something you can’t really forget,” Blahnik said. “You have a chunk of metal sitting in front of you.”

    Blahnik gave the doorknob to an unidentified official at the governor’s mansion to be given to Blagojevich.

    The students also met with State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Champaign; State Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Charleston; State Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria; and other legislators to discuss their concerns about the budget.

    Rose, a University alumnus who sported an orange and blue tie, said the University is a flagship institution and the amount of outside research money that the school brings in more than offsets the taxpayers’ costs.

    “It’s a good investment for our region, for our state and for our nation,” Rose said. “The important thing is that the current administration doesn’t seem to put a high premium on higher education.”

    Rose said that no cuts on the general revenue fund are OK too, given that the state has had deficits.

    “What we’d like is to not get cut anymore,” Ruzic said. “Even a flat budget is in effect a cut because cost-of-operation rises.”

    Ruzic said the provost noted that the flat budget received last year was in large part because of the student body.

    “The more we do, the larger the impact we’ll make,” Ruzic said.

    He added that student government attempted to increase the Illinois government’s understanding of the importance of the budget in past years.

    “But this year, we’re making a larger push,” Ruzic said.

    James Win, freshman in LAS and member of the ISS Budget Committee, said ISS collected 2,500 letters from University students, stating that they want more state support for the budget.

    “It shows it’s not just ISS that wants more funding but student body too,” Win said.

    Ruzic said the Illinois Student Senate is to return to Springfield on April 13 and 28 to speak to the Appropriations-Higher Education Committees for the state Senate and state House, respectively, and to deliver the letters from University students.

    Ruzic said he hopes to have a larger student turnout for the following trips.

    “It’s a matter of just getting our message to them,” Blahnik said. “I can’t make a projection of whether it’ll save the University, but we’re doing what we can to help the University out.”