Lack of support a cause for cuts

By Thomas Dowling

In the same breath of announcing “It’s time to make education our top priority again,” Governor Bruce Rauner announced on Wednesday that he would cut 209 million dollars from the University.

Many students, voters and nonvoters, were caught off guard by this huge budget cut, which accounts for 31.5 percent of the University’s state-funded budget.

Some supporters of Rauner were shocked to discover that he planned on cutting University funding despite Governor Rauner’s many statements during his campaign indicating that he planned on reducing the state’s spending on education.

Other students who did not vote at all are now learning a painful lesson about voter apathy. Instead of being upset at Governor Rauner, consider your own culpability.

If you did not vote, or voted without knowing the full platform of your candidate, you are just as much at fault for the proposed budget cuts as Governor Rauner.

Students had the opportunity to change the results of the election before the elections even happened.

The Student Senate attempted to secure same-day registration for student voters at the Illini Union, which was opposed by Republican County Clerk Hulten because of security issues. However, since college students generally favor Democratic candidates, this decision seemed to intentionally make it more difficult for students to vote which potentially shifted the results in favor of Rauner.

Despite the Student Senate’s efforts, little outside student support meant that the issue did not generate enough attention from the student body. This resulted in same-day registration being located at Brookens Administrative Center, a 30-minute bus ride.

Students could have spoken out and tried to force Hulten to allow same-day voting at the Illini Union. However, lack of same-day registration isn’t a valid excuse; even without it, students still could’ve voted and changed the election.

And so, to all of those who received President Easter’s email last Wednesday and were shocked, I say, you had a role in the budget cut.

The overall national turnout for our age demographic on election day was 21 percent according to the US Census Bureau. On Jan. 13, two days before the election, only 3,846 absentee ballots had been requested by Urbana students. However, with over 40,000 other students, we became a huge demographic and population that was excluded — by choice, with little excuse. It’s not hard to put aside 20 minutes to pop in to the Union, march down to the basement, and exercise our right to vote.

I get that being in college is time consuming. I understand that some students had midterms, papers to write and many other things to take care of. But I sincerely doubt that 40,000 students were all overcome with devastating amounts of responsibility and academic drive on the same day.

To all of the nonvoting students who are concerned that a 31.5 percent slash in our state funding will negatively affect our education: You could have voted for a candidate that did not want to cut the budget.

I am not writing this as a political rant. I understand that our state is facing tremendous financial challenges, and I do agree that putting Illinois’ budget in order is going to require making some tough choices.

The likelihood of Rauner’s budget being passed untouched is slim to none. Democrats have a veto-proof supermajority in both the state House and the state Senate. As a result, Democrats will be deciding Illinois’ budget, not Governor Rauner, and Democratic leadership in the state has made it clear that they have no intention of slashing higher education spending to that degree.

The University budget will be reduced. The University will need to take steps to reduce its expenditures (in fact, the University already has a budget proposal for up to a 20 percent reduction in state spending).

But I feel reasonably confident that the University will not be destroyed by an eventual budget cut.

This is all merely to say that students need to be active participants in the democratic process. Our participation serves as a ticket to rightfully complain about proposed policies.

I hope those who didn’t vote or cast an uninformed vote understand my frustration. I find it difficult to understand why many of my peers — my brilliant, motivated and passionate classmates — don’t seem to care about issues they have control over.

Politicians will start caring about college students when we start caring about them. Your vote has tremendous power. Use it, and make politicians cater to your interests.

Fail to do so, and start expecting headlines like the budget cut more often.

Thomas is a freshman in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected]