Lincoln Hall conditions surprise legislators during visit

By Michael Logli

Members of the Illinois committees on Higher Education and Appropriations for Higher Education were shocked by the conditions at Lincoln Hall when they toured the University on Aug. 30.

“It’s just gotten worse since I was a student there,” said Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet.

The two-committee visit was part of a larger tour of universities throughout the state to evaluate the quality of Illinois’ higher education system. In a letter addressed to the committee chairs, the quality of higher education in the country is decreasing, especially when compared to the rapid growth of other nations like Korea and Japan, Rose said.

To improve the quality of higher education, Rose proposed a joint committee called the Higher Education Task Force. The committee, which would work with faculty, administration, students and families, will address issues that face many universities and try to correct them. One of these problems, exemplified by Lincoln Hall, is a case of “deferred maintenance” at a public university, Rose said.

Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, one of the appropriations committee representatives on the tour, said renovating Lincoln Hall is one of her top priorities.

Jakobsson and Rose have discussed the Lincoln Hall conditions with other Illinois politicians, but seeing it in person is a lot different, Jakobsson said.

“Some of the representatives never expected to see those kinds of conditions,” said Justin Randall, senior in LAS and student body president, who was also on the tour. “(They were in) complete and utter shock.”

Lincoln Hall’s renovation will be a part of the “20-year blueprint” that committee members will try and follow, Rose said. He added that the blueprints will be guidelines for the state in terms of higher education quality in the next 20 years.

However, Rose said that there are about 20 other issues and areas, such as funding, affordability and readiness for the workforce, that the committees are concerned about. These issues may take precedence over the renovations.

“I’m much more concerned with the academic ability of a student,” Rose said.

The official plan for higher education improvement has not been created yet, and committee representatives continue to tour other public and private universities in the state. Both Rose and Jakobsson said that as former University students and supporters for improvement of higher education, Lincoln Hall’s renovation is one of their main priorities.

“We have to get a capital bill,” Jakobsson said. “The more we don’t do, the more deteriorated it becomes.”