Graduate Workers Bite Back Against Ives’ Disparaging Comments

Members of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) say State Rep. Jeanne Ives’ disparaging comments about graduate workers last week is a distraction from a bigger issue. Ives, a Republican from Wheaton, is opposed to legislation that would expand union rights to graduate research assistants.

In a committee hearing last Wednesday, Ives asserted research assistants didn’t deserve worker protection benefits. She cited a press release from the GEO urging its members in the science, technology, engineering and math fields to sign a petition promising not to work for any military or defense companies. The petition was not started by the graduate employees union, but it was presented to union leadership by a graduate student at the university, said Gabe Malo, a member of the GEO. Malo said the union’s leadership decided to support the petition via a democratic process. 

Malo said Ives’ comments are a distraction from the bigger point about union rights for research assistants. Malo also took issue with Ives’ description of research assistants as “weak kneed.”

“It’s insulting to our members, and to the research assistants, some of whom are veterans who have put much on the line for this country,” Malo said.

GEO member Roshni Bano hopes the legislation up for consideration by the House is passed. She’s a research assistant at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s biophysics program. She said graduate workers like her bring value to the university. 

“I feel like that value is being overlooked when the representative makes a statement saying we don’t deserve protections as workers,” Bano said. 

A spokesperson for the university, Tom Hardy, previously told NPR Illinois that the administration does not support giving union benefits to research assistants.

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May 21, 2018 at 06:44AM

Graduate Workers Bite Back Against Ives’ Disparaging Comments

McHenry County College offering new class on artificial intelligence

From voice-powered assistants such as Siri and Alexa to subtle behavior algorithms, artificial intelligence technology is affecting how people live, work and entertain today.

McHenry County College is offering an artificial intelligence class (ROB 220) beginning in August. The class will be from 5:30 to 9:50 p.m. Aug. 23 through Oct. 11 in Room D154.

“We interact with intelligent systems and services in various forms, including apps on our phones, websites, intelligent devices and much more,” robotics instructor Jack Brzezinski said. “AI is the future of computing, and soon will cause big changes in the economy. He said many jobs will change because of automated systems.

Although this class is new to MCC, AI has been part of Brzezinski’s career for many years. He has conducted extensive research and completed his doctorate dissertation on artificial intelligence and machine learning. Brzezinski has taught programming and robotics at MCC for 10 years.

MCC’s artificial intelligence course, which is part of the robotics degree program, will provide a broad understanding of the basic techniques for building intelligent computer systems and an understanding of how AI is applied to problems.

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May 21, 2018 at 12:23AM

McHenry County College offering new class on artificial intelligence

‘Higher Education’ Isn’t So Popular, Poll Finds, but Local Colleges Get Lots of Love

Democrats and Republicans both see a need for improvements in higher education. But they also really like their local colleges and universities.

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May 20, 2018 at 11:21PM

‘Higher Education’ Isn’t So Popular, Poll Finds, but Local Colleges Get Lots of Love

JJC offers new take on carp control

Researchers are hoping Asian carp have a sweet tooth in an effort to minimize their numbers.

Faculty from Joliet Junior College, members of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and commercial fishermen boated across the Illinois River from Starved Rock Marina on Friday to retrieve nets that included blocks made of candy.

Patrick Mills, chairman of the Natural Sciences department at Joliet Junior College, said the sweet treats could be used to attract the fish to larger nets.

“Asian carp are kind of like public enemy No. 1 in terms of invasive species because they essentially eat the plankton in the water, which the small fish eat,” Mills said. “So you’re basically killing the food chain of this base. That’s why these fish are so bad for our ecosystem, as they’re basically killing the fish in their crib.”

Mills said if the department can find the right flavor to attract the fish, it could assist in controlling their population numbers and re-establishing a natural ecosystem. Additionally, Mills has done research on amino acids that could double the success of the candy blocks.

The researchers took boats out to retrieve nets that had been placed in the river along with the blocks of pineapple-flavored candy. The candy was placed in a bag with holes in it so the product would seep into the river.

Greg Taylor, of Taylors Candy, made the product specifically for this project and rode with the team to see the result. Taylor said his company also made blocks of garlic, which will be used in the future as well as aniseed, or black licorice flavor, which was tested earlier.

He worked with researchers to determine which flavors would be enticing to the fish.

“You can’t ask the carp, so through their research knowledge of fishing and basically just through working with them we figured it out,” Taylor said.

Mills added that the candy-based bait also is less destructive to the other species that call the river home.

“There are many, many ways to get Asian carp out of the river and we want to avoid poison. We want to have a nondestructive technique because the last thing I want to see is poisoning the river,” Mills said.

“There’s always the casualties of war and we don’t want the other fish to suffer,” he added.

The first catch of the day resulted in success as a large number of Asian carp were caught in one of the candy-filled hoop nets. The researchers pulled the carp from the water and tossed back the catfish.

Clint Garwood, of Joliet Junior College, said they hope to find a flavor that attracts the invasive species and leaves the natural residents. While there are some universal flavors, such as aniseed and garlic, others attract more specific species.

The candy blocks are large when held in a person’s hand yet small when compared with the rushing Illinois River, but Garwood said that’s not a problem as flavor is typically oil-based and mixes into the current.

“The fish smell but do so in a water environment so oils tend to come up. So they’ll smell something and that triggers them to forage,” Garwood said. “They’re super sensitive to what triggers them to find food. It’s like how a shark can smell blood a mile away. For these fish, they’re picking up a light scent even in a current like this.”

Pineapple doesn’t have a natural oil, so a synthetic flavor was created for the day’s test.

Garwood said the team had a good pull of fish throughout the day, but numbers were low compared with previous years.

Matt O’Hara, IDNR Asian carp project leader, confirmed this with local fishermen and said carp haven’t been as prevalent in the main channel yet for spawning. He added water temperature and current flow get them to the main channel, and their usual presence may be delayed as a result of the extended time it’s taken for spring weather to hit the area.

Garwood said the fishermen in the area already know where the fish tend to reside, but the candy is an effort to speed up the process of catching the carp and removing them from the river.

O’Hara said that from there it’s up to the market to develop and create a demand for the fish on the mainland, such as China.

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May 19, 2018 at 10:38PM

JJC offers new take on carp control

Embrace values of civility, community, Ray LaHood tells ICC graduates

PEORIA — Embrace civility and community, and find inspiration in the success of yourselves and your neighbors.

That was the message Ray LaHood brought to the graduating class of Illinois Central College on Saturday morning during commencement ceremonies at the Peoria Civic Center.

“Men and women, singly or as part of larger families, living their lives in decency and love, working hard, being honest, quietly attending to their duties, are the very cornerstone of community life,” the former congressman and Cabinet official — himself a former community college student — told the assembled crowd. “So many of you have lived out those qualities, day in and day out.”

The graduates ranged in age from 17 to 64, college President Sheila Quirk-Bailey told attendees at the ceremony.

LaHood, as he often has in the past, urged a return to a more pleasant tone in public discourse.

“The most consequential leaders conduct themselves with civility — in victory and defeat,” he said. “Successful public service in a democracy does not require the destruction of one’s adversaries.”

And LaHood highlighted the successes of a handful of graduates, telling the students that each of them demonstrated similar, laudable values.

Among those he honored was Haley Wisner, returning to ICC at age 33 to complete her degree while working two jobs and raising a family.

And he highlighted Ruben Moro, whose mother immigrated from Mexico when he was five to escape family instability. Moro himself later became a permanent resident, earning his associate’s degree in engineering science and making plans to attend Southern Illinois University – Carbondale in the fall.

“Ruben says what kept him going is his mother,” LaHood said. “Because she worked so hard over the years providing for him and his siblings, he wants to show her something for her sacrifice.”

Some 1,527 students received degrees or certificates, many taking the stage to cheers and applause from family members and friends.

The college is marking its 50th anniversary this year; LaHood also spoke at graduation exercises during its 30th anniversary year.

Chris Kaergard can be reached at or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.

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May 19, 2018 at 11:26AM

Embrace values of civility, community, Ray LaHood tells ICC graduates

A new regional art museum is coming to Harrisburg

HARRISBURG — Southeastern Illinois College announced Friday it has a groundbreaking date set for the construction of a new regional art museum on its campus.

According to a news release from the college, the museum will be located on the east side of campus near the south entrance off College Road. The college is calling the museum a “showpiece for the region.” 

It will be called the Ella Elizabeth Hise Museum of Regional Arts, in honor of the late teacher and art supervisor for Harrisburg Public Schools.

Funding for the museum is coming entirely from a private endowment from Hise’s brothers, retired Air Force Col. William C. Hise and the estate of his late twin brother, Air Force Brig. Gen. James C. Hise, who died in February 2016. 

The donation and plans for the museum were originally announced in June 2017. At the time, the college said the museum would be devoted to the study and collection of regional art.

According to a news release from the college, a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Ella Elizabeth Hise Museum of Regional Art will be at 9 a.m. Tuesday, May 29. The public is invited to attend the ceremony. A light reception will follow in the George T. Dennis Visual and Performing Arts Center. 

Construction will actually begin later this year, according to the release. The college has not yet released details about art acquisition nor a timetable for completion of the project.

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May 19, 2018 at 06:46AM

A new regional art museum is coming to Harrisburg

ECC communications officer earns national community college honor

• Toya Webb, chief marketing and communications officer at Elgin Community College, was selected as a 2018 40 Under 40 honoree by the American Association for Women in Community Colleges. Webb accepted her award at the association’s annual breakfast and awards ceremony in Dallas on April 29.

The American Association for Women in Community Colleges’ 40 Under 40 award recognizes outstanding female leaders under the age of 40 who are known for being difference makers, game-changers and movers and shakers at the community colleges they serve. Webb was one of 40 women from across the nation to receive the award.

As chief marketing and communication officer, Webb leads an award-winning team of 20 experienced professionals in ECC’s marketing and communications department, which consists of four areas; marketing, communications, web services and print services.

• Liz Smith, president of Schaumburg-based Assurance, will co-chair the American Heart Association’s 2018-19 Chicago Go Red for Women campaign. Go Red for Women is the American Heart Association’s national movement to end heart disease and stroke in women.

Smith takes on the role with a personal goal to not only raise more awareness of heart disease risk among women, but to get employers more involved in cultivating healthier workplaces that support employee health and happiness.

Smith and Assurance have been involved with the American Heart Association for three years.

• Two-time Oakton Community College graduate and 2014 Oakton Distinguished Alumni Award-winner Timothy Panfil will deliver Oakton’s May 15 commencement address.

Panfil is currently the Elmhurst College director of enrollment management for graduate studies. He has been a part of the state’s higher education landscape since 1993, working in admissions, enrollment management and marketing for several colleges and universities in Illinois.

A former Maine East High School high-honor student, Panfil earned associate degrees in pre-engineering and electronics and computer technology from Oakton in 1988 and 1989, respectively. He continued his education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, earning a Bachelor of Science in marketing in 1991, followed by an MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management in 1997. As a member of the Oakton Alumni Council, Panfil also plays an active role in serving Oakton alumni.

• Submit your ‘Neighbors in the News’ items to Norrine Twohey at

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May 18, 2018 at 11:29AM

ECC communications officer earns national community college honor