ISS Web site helps effort

By Madeline Keleher

The Illinois Student Senate now offers a feature on its Web site that enables students to send letters to their state legislators addressing concerns about the University’s budget.

The last few years have marked the first time state funding has covered less than half of the University’s operating budget, said Josh Rohrscheib, co-president of the ISS. The lack of stable financial resources is the main reason the University’s national ranking has dropped, according to an article in U.S. News and World Report.

The ISS letter drive was started so students could do something about this, said Amanda Palazzo, chair of the ISS Budget Committee.

“Traditionally, students have not been very active in the whole politics of the budget,” Palazzo said. “They didn’t really know how they could make an impact. The Budget Letter Drive is a way that really does make an impact.”

In the past, students participated in the drive by writing their names down on slips of paper. It then took hours to go through the slips and determine the voting district and representative for each student.

“Sorting it all out was a lot of wasted manpower,” Palazzo said.

The new method is much more efficient and sophisticated, Rohrscheib said.

Students participate in the drive by going to the Web site and simply typing in their NetID. The Web site is programmed to do the rest.

“It uses the NetID to search the campus directory for the students’ addresses to find who their representatives are,” said Matt Cowell, junior in Engineering and designer of the Web site.

Students can choose to include additional information in the letter by checking boxes next to any of the following five topics: faculty retention and recruitment, library services, building restoration and maintenance, smaller classes and discussion sections, and diversity in the curriculum.

The five topics were selected based on the issues that students indicated were most important on the Tuition Survey put out by the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee.

In addition to the letters, the budget committee plans to send pictures showing the dilapidated condition of Lincoln Hall.

“This is seriously going to give representatives a closer look at what students care about,” Palazzo said. “It’s going to show them that we have a voice, and that they can’t ignore us anymore.”

Several new features will be added to the Web site following spring break, including a sentence that will automatically state the number of students at the University who are in the same district as the person filling out the letter. ISS is also working to add a letter for alumni and parents to access.

The Budget Letter Drive may especially benefit middle-income students, Palazzo said.

“Middle-income students don’t get a lot of financial aid, but tuition is still a huge burden,” she said. “Those students are the ones who get squeezed the hardest.”