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

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

Illinois lawmakers ask, does research count as work?

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois lawmakers are considering whether graduate-student researchers can form unions.

The House Labor & Commerce Committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday to continue discussing a measure allowing all graduate students to collectively bargain. State law says students who work as teaching assistants can unionize but not those who work as research assistants.

Democratic Rep. Will Guzzardi of Chicago is the sponsor. He says research assistants and teaching assistants perform similar functions and should be allowed to unionize.

Republican Rep. Steve Reick (RYK’) of Woodstock is against the measure. He says research isn’t work because students use it to further their own education.

The Senate approved the measure last month.



The bill is SB2546 .

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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May 16, 2018 at 05:30AM

Illinois lawmakers ask, does research count as work?

Gov. Rauner appoints Chicago corporate attorney to U. of I. board of trustees

Gov. Bruce Rauner appointed a Chicago attorney to serve on the University of Illinois board of trustees.

Sanford “Sandy” Perl was named to a six-year term Tuesday. Perl graduated from U. of I. in 1987 and is a corporate lawyer at Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago.

Rauner appointees now fill the majority of the nine U. of I. board seats that are named by the governor. Trustees Ramon Cepeda, Donald J. Edwards, Stuart C. King and Jill B. Smart all were appointed since 2015.

“I am excited to join my fellow board members in working together with the university’s phenomenal staff, faculty, and students to help the University of Illinois fulfill its mission to enhance the lives of the citizens of Illinois, across the nation and around the world, through leadership in learning, discovery, engagement and economic development,” Perl said in a statement.

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May 15, 2018 at 03:30PM

Gov. Rauner appoints Chicago corporate attorney to U. of I. board of trustees

Loyola University president paid $1.137 million for Loop condo

Loyola University President Jo Ann Rooney, who has held that post since 2016, paid $1.137 million on April 23 for a three-bedroom, 1,758-square-foot condo unit on the 45th floor of a Loop tower.

Rooney, 57, previously was president of Spalding University in Kentucky and held a high-ranking post in the U.S. Department of Defense under President Barack Obama.

Rooney’s new unit has east-facing views of Lake Michigan and Millennium Park. Located in a building that was constructed in 2005, the condo has hardwood floors and crown moldings throughout, custom shades, built-ins in the second bedroom, closet interiors by Closet Works, a master suite with a walk-in closet, and an open kitchen with 42-inch cabinets, granite countertops, a tile backsplash and stainless steel appliances.

Terri McAuley of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices KoenigRubloff, who represented Rooney in the purchase, said that Rooney considers the condo to be in “a perfect location, and the ease of access to all three Loyola campuses is very helpful for her.”

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May 15, 2018 at 03:18PM

Loyola University president paid $1.137 million for Loop condo

ISU trustees express anger over inequitable funding

NORMAL — Members of the Illinois State University board of trustees think the school is not getting its fair share of state dollars and intend to get more vocal about it.

Speaking before a vote to increase tuition and fees, board chairman Rocky Donahue said Illinois State University gets the lowest amount of state appropriations per full-time-equivalent student out of every public university in the state.

The statewide average is $6,579 per student while ISU receives $3,551, he said. At the University of Illinois, the per-student state appropriation is $7,047, he added.

“This is troublesome. This is simply ridiculous,” said Donahue.

Trustee Steve Rauschenberger was even more blunt.

“We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more,” said Rauschenberger. “We are at a key point, a key juncture. We want our fair share.”

Donahue said ISU has put more than $22 million in university funds into merit and needs-based student aid.

Donahue, Rauschenberger and others said ISU has to do a better job of getting ISU’s success story out.

“Everyone in this room knows higher education is under attack,” said Donahue.

Complaints about higher education circle around declining enrollments, administrative bloat and students leaving the state, he said.

But ISU has seen record enrollment in three of the last four years and has left 120 administrative and staff positions vacant since 2016, Donahue noted. In addition, 97 percent of its students are from Illinois, he said.

“Tonight and tomorrow, we’re going to graduate more Illinois students than any university in Illinois,” said Donahue, referring to spring commencement.

Speaking after the meeting, Donahue noted that ISU is among the leading universities nationally in retention and graduation rates as well as low student default rates.

“For this to continue, that state has to do its share, too,” he said. “We’re a public university.”

Trustee Bob Dobski said, “It’s just a shame when we ask what can be done about the inequity, we’re told … it will be hard to change. … This needs to change now.”

The lack of a capital program was also a source of complaint.

Funding for a fine arts complex to replace or renovate Centennial East, Centennial West and the Center for Visual Arts has been on ISU’s wish list for more than a decade. Then-Gov. Pat Quinn came to ISU in February 2013 announcing the release of $54.3 million for the complex, but the money never came through.

Meanwhile, the university has spent millions of dollars on stopgap repairs.

Jonathan Lackland, ISU’s director of governmental relations, told the board there is no word yet whether funding will be included for the fine arts complex in the next state budget.

Donahue suggested that, instead of waiting for a large-scale capital program, the university should try to get lawmakers to sponsor a bill specifically to support this project.

“I don’t know if that’s the way, but we’ve gone the route of ‘we trust you’” putting it in the bill, and “that hasn’t worked in 10 years,” Donahue said after the meeting.

Contact Lenore Sobota at (309) 820-3240. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Sobota

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May 11, 2018 at 05:05PM

ISU trustees express anger over inequitable funding

Money talks, and Illinois students walk

Financial aid is playing an increasingly important role in luring record numbers of Illinois high school graduates to colleges in nearby states in an intensifying Midwest battle for students.

Illinois legislators vexed by the state’s loss of college-bound students will propose fixes soon, but more money for financial aid may be a missing part of the equation.

The future of Illinois higher education, particularly at its public universities, is at stake as the state grapples with how to hang on to homegrown students and attract more from other states to bolster income at a time when the U.S. population of high school graduates is contracting. The cash-strapped state has been slow to react to the changing landscape, and stumbled badly in holding up grants during its recent two-year budget impasse.

“Illinois has so far failed to adapt to that changing marketplace,” says Republican state Sen. Chapin Rose, who is part of a bipartisan legislative working group that began reviewing Illinois higher education late last year.

The most recent statistics available from the Illinois Board of Higher Education show 18,165 Illinois high school graduates chose four-year colleges outside the state in 2015, mainly drawn to rival regional public universities. Only 22 percent more, 22,236 students, stayed in Illinois, despite in-state benefits. Including other types of higher education, such as community college, Illinois had a net loss of 16,623 freshmen in 2014, the highest net loss in more than a decade, the board says.

Not surprisingly, students, administrators and counselors say that financial aid and the rising cost of college play a significant role in decision-making. Some states and cities have responded with free higher education options—a trend that could put downward pressure on pricing.

Paula Luff, associate vice president of enrollment services at DePaul University, says that during her 30 years working with students she’s seen them become more sensitive to the cost of higher education as the pace of state and federal aid increases have fallen behind rising tuition and fees. Schools like DePaul are forced to fill in the gap with private and operating funds, she says.

For many students across the country, staying home is much cheaper, with average in-state tuition and fees of $9,970 for a four-year public school for the 2017-18 school year, versus $25,620 for out-of-state public school tuition and fees, and $34,640 for private, nonprofit four-year schools, according to the nonprofit College Board organization. The cost of public in-state education is up 37 percent over the past decade, while private schooling is 26 percent higher, the board says.

States aim to ease that burden by supplementing federal Pell Grants with state programs. Illinois ranked 12th among states in funding student financial aid for the 2015-16 school year, and it had a middle-of-the-pack standing on a per capita basis, according to the most recent survey by the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs.

But as Illinois funding for public universities has declined, tuitions have climbed to make up the difference, making the state’s average tuition and fees for in-state students the fifth-highest in the U.S., according to a recent report from the Civic Federation’s Institute for Illinois’ Fiscal Sustainability.

Illinois has been moving in the opposite direction of most states over the past decade: decreasing aid, rather than increasing it. The state cut annual aid by 16 percent in the past 10 years, while Iowa boosted it by 21 percent and Wisconsin jacked it up 34 percent, the association says. Those two states attracted the most outbound Illinois students in 2016.





Illinois aid peaked at $411.6 million in 2012 but has sagged to $346.4 million for the current school year, according to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. And those figures gloss over the major disruption to the Illinois Monetary Award Program spurred by Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Legislature’s failure for two years to agree on a budget, temporarily blocking $320 million promised to students until last year. While schools tried to backstop funding, some students couldn’t make ends meet and dropped out, leaving them with debts and no degrees.

That episode tarnished the image of Illinois in the eyes of students and parents because it undercut stability and certainty, says Eric Zarnikow, executive director at the commission. “The brand of higher education was harmed during the budget delay,” he says. “It made it more appealing for some students to go out of state.”

Even without that kind of drama, only half of eligible students in Illinois receive aid, essentially on a first-come, first-served basis.

The state’s higher education system is due for an overhaul, says Sen. Rose, who favors a more centralized planning authority, but he plans to support shorter-term proposals to be unveiled by the legislative group in the next few weeks. “Everyone is really committed to make higher education in Illinois stronger,” says Democratic Rep. Kelly Burke, who is also on the 12-member group and chairs the House committee for higher education appropriations.

They have a consensus on some legislative proposals, or perhaps agency rule changes, aimed at giving Illinois institutions more firepower in the competition for students. The proposals include revising a state rule so Illinois universities have more leeway to discount tuition for out-of-state students; creating a common public university application; and offering Illinois MAP grants on a four-year basis, as opposed to one-year increments. As for more state financial aid, Rose predicts it’s not going to happen because the state is broke.

That won’t stop Zarnikow from asking. His commission is seeking an additional $100 million for the aid program next year. That 45 percent increase would put Illinois aid at its highest level ever.

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May 11, 2018 at 03:19PM

Money talks, and Illinois students walk