As elections and the semester come to a close, Student Government is preparing for the next school year and two SIUE 2016 alumni came to remind the senators of their role on campus.
Dillon Santoni, former student trustee, and Madeline McCune, former student body president, currently work as capitol staff members in Springfield. The pair wanted to encourage senators attending Advocacy Day on April 26, to stand up for their peers and advocate for not only the budget crisis, but also for other areas they have the ability to change.
Santoni suggested a better description of what the role of a senator stands for at SIUE, the idea of senator mentoring, what their power is capable of and for who they work. McCune suggested something she wishes would have been applied when she was in SG.
“One thing that I would’ve wished we had focused on more as a group was understanding the process,” McCune said. “Congress is a process.”
That process entails going through a formal agenda and senator and executive reports, while speaking on topics that affect students at SIUE. Santoni did that by putting the budget situation in perspective for the senators.
“Illinois is in a pretty strange fiscal situation,” Santoni said. “Since 2002, public institutions in Illinois have been appropriated 21 percent less money than they were 15 years ago.”
With that, Santoni said statutory Monetary Award Program grant funding has been kept at the same monetary level. According to Santoni, the state appropriation has decreased, higher education has become more expensive over the years, and MAP Grants have stayed at the same amount, leaving students with more financial burdens on their backs.
“[At] the University in 1957, in its first year, tuition for 16 hours was 70 dollars,” Santoni said. “With inflation, that is 607 dollars today. With fees, that is about 14 and a half percent times more today than it was then.”
According to Santoni, some of that makes sense when looking at SIUE’s growth.
“When we begin to consider fiscal situations that are happening not only in the state but furthermore happening nationally, it is kind of a trend that we have to be careful of,” Santoni said.
Vice President Ryan Johnson asked the pair about the Senate Bill 888 and their take on it. The bill suggests letting community colleges in Illinois provide bachelor’s degrees in nursing to keep up with demand.
“The proponents of the argument say that in the large picture, the United States has a large demand for nurses, and in order to keep up with that demand of nurses, we need to have more institutions granting more degrees to have that,” Santoni said. “The other side of that is that, especially with the fiscal situation in Illinois, granting new four-year degrees creates a new cross barrier to things.”
Santoni said a limitation is the accessibility of universities versus community colleges. Santoni also said he spoke to the dean of the School of Nursing, Laura Bernaix. She and others in similar positions are working on providing more partnerships to work on a solution to this problem.
When looking at the budget and senate bills that affect universities, Santoni stressed the importance of advocacy.
“You all are elected members of the body, and for those of you coming into new positions, that elected position is very important, and I believe that if student leaders aren’t engaged, then the motion slows down,” Santoni said.
Santoni said there were three things he wanted to leave the senators with — they must lead, understand that leading is a privilege and empower others around them.
In other business:
Johnson announced the resignation of Senator Cody Osborne due to dropping below full time status, and the removal of Senator Austin Evans due to absences.
The constitutional reviews for SIUE Student Action, Support the Girls, Beta Gamma Sigma and Sigma Tau Delta were all approved.