State Rep speaks to students about issues in Ill. legislature

By Tracy Culumber

“On the Move!” the 2005-2006 slogan for the College of Law held true Tuesday evening as time constraints forced state Rep. Marlow Colvin (D-33) to hurry through his speech on Illinois politics at the Law Building.

Due to heavy traffic and a budget briefing in Chicago Tuesday afternoon, Colvin arrived 20 minutes late for the 5 p.m. speech entitled, “Current Issues Facing the Illinois State Legislature.” Another event immediately following the presentation forced the audience of about 40 faculty members, alumni, and students to vacate the Max L. Rowe Auditorium just 45 minutes after the speech had begun.

Despite the time constraints, Colvin, 41, who represents a district on Chicago’s South Side, remained poised and informal throughout his speech.

Colvin’s speech focused on a variety of political issues, ranging from minority roles in the Democratic Party and Illinois school funding, to the importance of law in the legislative branch of government.

Colvin, who has served in the House and as chairman for the Illinois House Black Caucus since 2001, said diversity adds substance to the political process, but is often misunderstood.

“One of the greatest misconceptions about black legislation is that we think alike, and that is not true,” Colvin said during the speech. “When you talk about diversity, our group embodies that.”

Colvin also said he is passionate about young people getting involved in the Democratic process.

“You are not just leading young Democrats, you are leading leaders, and that can be difficult,” he said during the speech. “There is a wide array of opportunities that exist for lawyers in the government process.”

Although Colvin joked about various topics and referred to Chicago politics as a “blood sport,” he was serious about the issue of school funding. He said Illinois is ranked 48 out of the 50 states for state awarded school funding and that Blagojevich’s refusal to raise taxes is to blame.

“No one wants to pay more for taxes and that’s the problem,” Colvin said during the speech. “Something is going to give. Education is going to break the bank.”

Colvin’s speech was sponsored by the Black Law Students Association and the Law School Democrats.

President of the association Scott Rochelle, graduate student, said the 30 year-old national organization promotes a positive academic environment to prepare students for careers in law.

“Our goal is to assist and encourage African-Americans to pursue an elite education and create a network of current students and alums,” Rochelle said.

The College of Law leads the Big Ten in diversity with 36.8 percent minority enrollment, he said. Eight percent of law students at the University are black.

Kristopher Anderson, graduate student, member of the association and treasurer for the Young Democrats of America, invited Colvin to speak as part of the 2005 Leadership Lecture Series and introduced him at the beginning of the speech.

“He’s inspirational to me and I’m sure to other people,” Anderson said. “He’s a rising star and I’m sure he’ll be on a state ballot soon.”

At the reception in the Peer Pedersen Pavilion following the speech, law students and faculty members lined-up to shake Colvin’s hand and further discuss legal and political issues.

Gray Mateo, graduate student, said that Colvin’s speech validated her feelings toward the minority role in politics.

“To me, (the speech) reinforces positive beliefs about progressive active minority issues,” Mateo said. “He seems very genuine and clearly has a lot of heart.”