Students concerned with proposed cuts for Illinites in UI budget

By Michael Logli

The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs held its annual town hall meeting Tuesday in the Illini Union’s Pine Lounge concerning University tuition and student fees. But after Provost Linda Katehi and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Renee Romano gave slideshow presentations discussing student fee increases and the proposed budget, many of the ensuing questions concerned the Student Fee Advisory Committee’s decision to cut funding for the Illinites program.

Funded by the University and the Illini Union Board, Illinites provides entertainment for students in a non-alcoholic environment on Friday nights throughout the school year. If University funding were cut, the number of Illinites events would decrease from the current number of 14-15 a year to one a semester, said Abby Fleming, senior in LAS and president of the Illini Union Board.

“When the Illinites program first asked for money, the agreement was that they would help support non-alcoholic based programs,” Fleming said. “How can we provide that alternative with so few events?”

Justin Randall, senior in LAS and student body president, explained that, though it was a difficult decision to make, cutting funding for Illinites was necessary. After looking at attendance numbers from each Illinites event and comparing it to the money spent by the University to fund the program, the Student Fee Advisory Committee did not believe spending students’ money on Illinites was beneficial.

“Based on attendance, we were being fiscally irresponsible by continuing to fund the program,” Randall said. “We didn’t feel we should subsidize entertainment costs when faced with rising health care and prescription medication costs.”

These choices to cut funding for certain programs must be made because of decreasing state support, Katehi said. With higher education funding decreasing every year, the University has had to increase its cost of tuition and the cost of student fees. The proposed increases would raise the general, health and service student fees from $615 to $706.10 by the 2008-2009 school year for students. This would also affect residential life on campus, Romano said. The rate of living in a basic double residence hall room with 14 meals is $7,216, but by 2008-2009, the rate would be increased to $8,198.

“Just like your parents would do, the University has to cover its debts,” Katehi said.

The budget proposition has been approved by both the Office of the Chancellor and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and is waiting to be approved by the Board of Trustees, which will likely happen at the March or April meeting, Randall said.