Assembly members meet student senate for UI Day

 

 

By Michael Logli

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Student Senate members met with members of the Illinois General Assembly to talk about higher education funding, Wednesday night. However, their meeting location, Sammy’s Sports Bar and Grill in Springfield, Ill., was anything but mundane in nature.

“Last year we just milled around and socialized,” said Jason Webber, vice president external and graduate senator.

Lobbying at what senator Rob Main, junior in Business, called the assembly members’ usual hangout, students were given the unique opportunity to speak to Illinois representatives over a few drinks. This was part of U of I Day, an annual event the student senate uses to speak with Illinois government members about important issues like higher education funding. Some representatives, such as Chapin Rose, representative of the 110th district, were former students and members of student government.

“I believe in the orange and blue,” Rose said. “I was student trustee for two years and a senator. We’ve had the idea for U of I Day. I’m glad they decided to do it.”

Ron Zook, University football head coach, also came to the event. In between chatting with senators and representatives, Zook signed autographs and took pictures with officials and students.

“I’m just a football coach,” Zook said. “I’m like a little kid too around these people.”

Before the event began at 6 p.m., several senators went to Springfield early that afternoon in order to visit to each senators’ and representatives’ offices to make sure they knew of the event. Though each legislator received invitations to U of I Day, some had other events scheduled for that night and there was an administrative problem that did not give the lawmakers notice of the date changes that occurred.

“We went to every single office and talked to secretaries and representatives about the event tonight,” Main said. “I think it’s a huge success.”

Renee Romano, vice chancellor of student affairs, said she believed that the event was not so much a blatant lobbying event as it was a chance to connect with the members of government.

“Senators can meet with their constituents one-on-one,” Romano said. “I feel it’s important that they have that connection there.”

By working with the Illinois government in the future, student senators hope to have the voices of the University’s student body heard and their opinions recognized.

“At this point we’re trying to shake off any further damage from Blagojevich,” Rose said. “He hasn’t been a friend of higher education.”