Thursday, September 29, 2005

That's Why They're Called the Fighting Illini

When it rains, it pours. Some time ago, much was made about the Governor being heartily booed at a Champaign appearance. In an opinion piece in today's Daily Illini, a columnist covering the installation of the University's new President, B. Joseph White, kicked it up a notch. It started with an observation of the Governor's presence at the event:
In all the pomp and circumstance of the inauguration, however, I couldn't help but be embarrassed and angered at the same time. Several key elected officials sent their greetings to the President via video recording, and they were played at the beginning of the event. Senators Obama and Durbin and Speaker Hastert, flanked by American flags and formally dressed, were eloquent and cordial in their welcoming of President White. Yet, our esteemed Gov. Blagojevich, in a clearly unrehearsed speech, wearing a plain blue polo shirt, standing with hands on hips, succeeded in perpetuating his own decline.
Then it got interesting as the article turned into a pretty damn strong diatribe against the re-election of the Governor (emphasis added):
Those affiliated with the University, even you College Democrats, must not support Gov. Rod Blagojevich's campaign for re-election. The University is the state's greatest asset. Our faculty brings in over 500 million dollars annually from out-of-state research sources, which in turn creates more jobs and grows our economy. Yet, this governor has leeched off of our institution, allowing our buildings to crumble, our tuition to soar and our good name to tarnish. We cannot afford four more years of the same.

This is my call to political arms for our campus. In about 13 months, we will have an opportunity to install new leadership in Springfield who will give Illinois the funding and recognition we deserve. Read between the lines: our new president is calling for a change. We should give him all the help he needs.
Now I'm guessing that the Daily Illini leans left. And I realize that they are motivated by selfish, albeit legitimate, concerns. But if this article reflects more than just the sentiment of one reporter, there is a bumpy road ahead.


At September 29, 2005 at 7:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a junior in LAS. You need to read the rest of the op ed piece. I thought it was well done. Even the kids get it that the man is clueless when it comes to know who the people are in our state and what institutions are treasures.

At September 29, 2005 at 10:32 PM, Blogger IlliniPundit said...

Rep. Fritchey,

Blagojevich will be lucky to get 40% in Champaign County. Even the traditionally liberal UI employees and faculty are quite upset with the huge funding cuts (several hundred tenured faculty positions have been eliminated) and especially with the pension raid.

It's going to be interesting to see how strongly they associate their dislike of Blagojevich with Rep. Jakobsson, who voted for the pension raid before trying to claim that she didn't, and with Senate candidate Mike Frerichs, who will be wholly funded by Emil Jones. Will Frerichs campaign against the cuts championed by his Democratic benefactors? If so, how can he do so credibly?

What the Democratic leadership in this state have done to our flagship University is disgraceful, and I'm gratified that some local Democrats and student's aren't afraid to admit it.

At September 29, 2005 at 10:40 PM, Blogger WWDMD said...

unfair to gov. the higher ed was unregulated undre repub. for years. until truth in tutition (joyce), the schools cannot simply pass their increases to students. still U of i is onne of the best bargins for in state students in the country

At September 30, 2005 at 8:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. White says we need a change in leadership so the U of I can get more funding.

What that means is new leadership that will raise income taxs on the working men and women of Illinois.

With the cost of livng at an all time high and the cost of heating our homes this winter that may be 70% higher than last year, Mr. White wants me and the millions of working men and women to pay higher taxes, give me a break.

If Mr. White and his candidate wants to go around this state running on higher income taxs for working men and women go right ahead and we will see what happens.

When Mr. White and his candidate are out campaigning together Mr. White should let us all know how much he makes as President of the U of I and how big of a pension plan he has.

I have one child at SIU now and one who just finished. I would rather pay a little higher tuition now than pay higher income taxes for the rest of my life.

Mr. White, I can't afford to pay any more taxs. Its time people like you relize that we go to work every day work hard and we should be able to spend our money on our famlies.

At September 30, 2005 at 8:58 AM, Blogger Bill said...

The truth is that under the Repubs the University of Illinois always received a large majority of higher ed funding and the other state universities and community colleges were left to fight over the remaining crumbs.
While the governor did institute massive cuts in higher ed funding, it was the university and college administrators who made the decisions to cut faculty and others who work with students rather than eliminate highly paid bureaucrats and political cronies (Jim Edgar comes to mind, so does Glenn Poshard).
While the pension "raid", as you call it, is obviously poor fiscal policy, it was not the governor's proposal but that of the legislative leaders who negotiated the budget so as not to give the repubs the leverage that they would have in overtime session. The holiday was merely a continuation of the failed Thompson-Edgar policy which caused the problem in the first place. No active or retired pensioner will have their constituitionally guaranteed benefits affected by the holiday.
Should higher education funding be increased?
Obviously, Yes! But it should be more equitably distributed. Isn't tuition at U of I cheaper than most big ten Universities? Isn't U of I one of the best bargains in higher ed in the country?
I am confident that under Governor Blaogjevich funding will be restored and possibly even increased in 2007 and beyond. It is taking a few years to clean up the mess left over from 27 years of mismanagement.
While IP may be right about 40% in Champaign County, the gov should get 60-80% in all the other counties that are home to state universities and colleges.

At September 30, 2005 at 10:32 AM, Blogger IlliniPundit said...

Mr. White says we need a change in leadership so the U of I can get more funding.

What that means is new leadership that will raise income taxs on the working men and women of Illinois.

No, it doesn't. I reject your premise. It means more responsible spending (less Joffrey Ballet, for example) and placing a higher priority on higher education.

While IP may be right about 40% in Champaign County, the gov should get 60-80% in all the other counties that are home to state universities and colleges.

The residents of Charleston, Macomb, Carbondale and DeKalb disagree with you. It's my understanding that the Governor is as widely reviled there (Carbondale not so much) as he is in CU. The cuts haven't been limited to the UI, you know. Ask an EIU or WIU administrator how their budgets have fared under Blago, Madigan and Jones.

At September 30, 2005 at 12:40 PM, Blogger Bill said...

"Ask an EIU or WIU administrator how their budgets have fared under Blago, Madigan and Jones."

While we are asking college administrators, who typically are not very truthful about their budgets, lets also ask the ones at Chicago State, Northeastern Il, and Governors' State who were routinely ignored during previous administrations and are now at least being remembered if not completely adequately funded. Don't you like Ballet?

At September 30, 2005 at 1:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

(pardon me for the longwindedness)

Rep. Fritchey,
The disdain for Rod Blagojevich in Champaign-Urbana is not a new phenomena nor is it for any single reason nor is it the domain of any single group of people.

As a former Daily Illini employee I can't speak to the paper's feelings about Blagojevich now, but I can tell you that concerns about the governor's commitment to the university have been around since 2003 despite the fact that the fact the paper has historically leaned lefter than the student body and I believe it endorsed Blagojevich over Jim Ryan. I am fairly certain the Daily Illini's concerns have nothing to do with the Chief as the paper has supported retiring the chief for more than a decade. (This IS the case for many C-U townies and athletic boosters who want to keep the Chief and are suspicious of Blagojevich's ties to Emil Jones)

University of Illinois students have seen their tuition go up at the same time the quality of their education and the prestige (and thus value) of their degree has gone down all for one reason only, a lack of adequate government support of higher education.

I think the university has done what it could to make up for that and ensure that quality doesn't suffer, but those efforts have been at the very best unaffected by the governor's policies and at worst hindered greatly.

In the summer of 2003 former student trustee Nate Allen organized an online survey of students to gauge their thoughts on tuition and university funding and a majority of students said they would support an 8% increase in tuition so they could keep student benefits such as libraries open 24 hours a day and the same number of course offerings. The Daily Illini, the voice of the student body, also supported a large tuition increase recognizing the funding cuts the university was seeing. Unfortunately, the U of I board of trustees were pressured by the governor's people to only increase tuition by 5% that summer instead of the 8% students said they would be OK with or the double-digit tuition increases that every other university was approving to get by. The result: massive cuts at U of I to the education of students.

When students got back to school in fall of 2003 they had hundreds of fewer classes to choose from and classes that had formerly been lecture-discussion with more teacher attention for students swarmed into massive lectures.

In other cases professors started teaching for free, student jobs were cut, and Lincoln Hall and other buildings sat crumbling waiting for promised state dollars.

Given that tough budget time already and coupling that with the quite unflattering face that Blagojevich has presented to the university, it's not all that surprising that Blagojevich would be unpopular with students and faculty.

The few times he has shown up on campus have been to announce funding for still-to-be-constructed buildings on campus or to ride the coattails of the popular basketball team. Each time he makes the same light-hearted yet decidedly unfunny joke about how when he went to college he had such little interest in school that he didn't even know where the library was. Again, yes it's light-hearted, but when you think about it statements like that on a college campus are really a slap in the face to professionals whose life's work is making young adults smarter and better human beings through college. It also makes one wonder if Rod Blagojevich knows where the U of I library is (underground so as not to throw shade on the corn) and whether he cares whether or not the U of I library stays the world's largest public university library.

I also know lawmakers like to tout the truth-in-tuition bill as having helped students, but it hasn't made school any cheaper and may have possibly made tuition even more expensive because of the conservative front-loading of tuition increases it forces universities to do to make sure they aren't stuck broke later on.

This governor has done a lot for K-12 education and poor people with expanded health care and the minimum wage increase, but he still has a lot to prove in terms of what he has done for the students in Champaign or Carbondale or Normal. It's their universities that have seen their funding held flat or cut to pay for the K-12 increase. And hopefully when they graduate they won't be in position to benefit from the minimum wage increase.

And Rep. Fritchey, you of all people in Springfield probably have a good sense of how the pension raid vote this year may have saddled students at Illinois universities who choose to stay in Illinois after they graduate with a future tax increase and how university professionals might be a bit angry their pensions were being used to balance the budget.

At September 30, 2005 at 4:36 PM, Blogger U of I College Dems said...

Rep. Fritchey-

That article was an op-ed piece by Chuck Prochaska, a former Vice President of the U of I College Republicans. He is a partisan hack (as am I), not an objective journalist. You should be careful not to view his writing as reflective of the overall opinion of the student body.

At October 2, 2005 at 3:02 PM, Blogger Hon. John Fritchey said...

I never meant to use it to generalize about the mindset in C-U. Just wanted to show some of the thoughts circulating about. Thanks for clarifying the context though.

And was the football team really supposed to be this bad this season?

At October 2, 2005 at 3:06 PM, Blogger Hon. John Fritchey said...

And to anon 1:11 from Friday, thank you for the excellent and thoughtful post. It's comments like that which make doing this blog worthwhile. I appreciate the input.

At October 3, 2005 at 11:58 AM, Blogger Bill said...

Here is an example of why the Governor feels that cuts in higher education were justified. A lot of state funding never gets to the students and professors. When presidents say that they have cut "administration" they are usually talking about their secretaries and the people who maintain their offices.... not their own salaries and perks...Professors have to scrap and claw for raises of 0-3% while the administrative ranks swell.
Sorry to take up all of this space, John, but the truth is stranger than fiction.

From the Bloomington Pantagraph:
SPRINGFIELD -- Fewer state dollars are flowing to Illinois' public universities, but that didn't stop nearly every university president from receiving a pay hike this year.
Illinois Board of Higher Education figures show salaries for top university leaders rose an average of 10 percent between 2004 and

...At Illinois State University, for example, President Al Bowman received a $20,000 boost in July, bringing his annual salary to $250,000. Northern Illinois University President John Peters received an $11,000 salary boost, meaning his salary as of July 1 is $283,951.

The president and two chancellors at Southern Illinois University also are taking home bigger paychecks, as is Eastern Illinois University President Lou Hencken.

The average salary for university presidents and chancellors as of July 2005 was $259,835 annually. Gov. Rod Blagojevich draws a salary of $150,691...
U of I President B. Joseph White received a salary of $450,000, up 34.3 percent from what his predecessor received last year. The university is paying Richard Herman, the new chancellor of the Urbana campus $350,000, which is 18.2 percent higher than his predecessor.

While students, on average, are paying more for student housing, some presidents are receiving more for theirs.

At EIU, for example, Hencken saw his housing allowance increase by $700 to $28,000. The housing allowance for Northeastern Illinois University President Salme Steinberg has risen $7,500 since 2003.

By contrast, students at EIU saw their room and board costs rise by nearly 7 percent to $5,750.


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