KCC turns 50 with a bang!

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It was a celebration worthy of a 50 year anniversary.

“The Power of Community” Gala was held at Kankakee Community College last Saturday night to commemorate the accomplishments of five decades of higher education in the area.

Among the evening’s highlights was naming a Fabulous 50 Alumni and recognizing them for their distinguished personal and career accomplishments and exemplary contributions to society.

The honorees included Daily Journal Editor-At-Large Mike Frey, who has worked 35 years for the newspaper and was a youth baseball coach for 24 years.

A former sports reporter turned editor, Frey, through his writing, likely has reached more people in this community than most anyone else.

The “Power of Community” became evident in the speech given by current KCC President John Avendano.

In his remarks Avendano said the hope was to get 400 people to attend the gala. As the date came closer, that number continued to rise daily until it reached a whopping 520 by the final day, showing the support the community has given the school since its inception.

KCC did an outstanding job of transforming the Activities Center gym into a grand banquet room. There was entertainment throughout the evening to go along with delicious food. Thanks to some cooperative weather, the evening was capped off with a fireworks show.

It was an impressive evening that shed a spotlight on just how important the college is to this community.

Speaking of KCC, I got a phone call this weekend from one of the school’s legends.

“Just called to tell you, I’m hanging ’em up,” the voice on the other end of the phone line remarked. “Yeah, yeah it’s time.”

The voice belonged to longtime friend Dennis Clark, the hall of fame softball coach at Kankakee Community College.

Clark is retiring at the end of May from KCC, where he was the director of the school’s fitness center besides being the softball coach.

During his 35-year tenure as coach, Clark compiled an amazing 1,278-371 record, including making the NJCAA national tournament the last 19 years in a row. The Cavaliers won their only national title in 2015 and ended the current season in seventh place nationally.

Similar to his father, Don, before him, Clark has retired to the golf course where he’s working part-time in the Kankakee Elks Country Club pro shop and likely will be fine-tuning his golf game all year long.

Tim Yonke is the Assistant Managing Editor/Weekend Editor at the Daily Journal. He can be reached by calling 815-937-3372 or by email at tyonke@daily-journal.com.

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May 27, 2017 at 04:20AM

KCC turns 50 with a bang!

Voice of The Southern: Fund our public universities

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The state is running out of time.

That shouldn’t be surprising to anybody, but it really seems like our lawmakers in Springfield don’t realize what is going on.

We’re quickly approaching two years without a state budget. That’s nearly two years of little to no state funding for our universities, our social services and everything else.

That spells big trouble for Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Let’s face it, the situation is pretty serious — there are some in the state who say that budget won’t be reached until after the 2018 election.

SIUC is not alone here. Other state universities are in the same boat, some even worse.

In story in today’s paper, Kent Redfield, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois at Springfield, said, “If we have no movement until after the 2018 elections, I think it would be a certainty some universities would not open that fall. I think Eastern, Western, Northeastern, and Chicago State are all the top of the list. The Carbondale situation is pretty tenuous as well.”

Is that alarming enough for the folks in Springfield? We hope so.

Those five universities equal nearly 35,000 students, according to spring 2017 numbers from the Illinois Board of Higher Education. According to the same numbers, there are 156,882 students enrolled in the state’s public universities. For those scoring at home, that’s nearly 22 percent of the state’s students.

Think about it for a second: Do you think students are going to enroll in a university that may not open? They answer should be a pretty resounding no. Do you think students are going to stay if a university may close its doors? Again, no.

And think about this — that could be up to 35,000 students leaving the state for college, paying more for out-of-state tuition. Nobody wants that.

It’s a problem, something that Jak Tichenor, interim director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at SIUC, called a “brain drain” in today’s story. “We’re losing some of our best and brightest in the state because of the impasse,” he said.

That’s no way to get the state on better grounds. In order for Illinois to get back to what it once was, the people who live here have to stay here.

And it would all start with funding SIUC and the rest of our public universities. And, don’t forget freezing the state’s sky-high property taxes, but that’s a story for another day.

Earlier this month, State Sen. Paul Schimpf said he’s been given “assurances” that lawmakers will vote by the end of May to get funding to universities on way or another. “Obviously, we would prefer a full budget, but if we have to do this incrementally then certainly a lifeline would be appreciated,” he said then.

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Looking at the calendar, May is more than halfway over, and we’re in no better place today than we were nearly 10 days ago when he said that.

It’s time for lawmakers to have a real sense of urgency — the same urgency the rest of the people of Illinois are feeling.

SIU is already approaching other ways to get money. Last week, the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees authorized a plan to allow the Carbondale campus to borrow from the Edwardsville campus until which time the state of Illinois approves a full annual state appropriation to the SIU System.

That’s a last-ditch effort to get the funding SIUC needs. But what does it really do? After all, the borrowing is just on paper only to show SIUC is in the black.

The real solution is get the funding from the state — remember, SIUC hasn’t been fully funded since fiscal year 2015.

The leaders of this state — whoever and wherever you are — need to lock themselves in a room and come up with a full, balanced budget agreement. If that can’t be done, then shame on you, but at least find a way to fund our universities.

The state of Illinois cannot afford a “brain drain.” In reality, it can’t afford more draining of any kind.








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May 20, 2017 at 07:22PM

Voice of The Southern: Fund our public universities

NPR Illinois sets state budget forum Wednesday in Champaign

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URBANA — NPR Illinois will host a state budget forum featuring former Gov. Jim Edgar and University of Illinois President Tim Killeen at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the I Hotel and Conference Center in Champaign.

It is the second of 11 planned free events planned around the state open to the public to talk about how different regions have been affected by the state budget impasse.

The forums sponsored by AARP and NPR Illinois (WUIS in Springfield) are a chance to hear directly from Illinois residents about their experience without a state budget and panelists’ views on these effects, said the radio station. The first event took place last month in Springfield.

Moderated by Brian Moline, the local host of “Morning Edition” on WILL, panelists for the Champaign forum will be Edgar; Killeen; Christopher Mooney, director of the University of Illinois’ Institute of Government and Public Affairs; and Rosanna Marquez, Illinois state president for AARP.

Edgar, a Republican who served as governor from 1991 to 1999, has been critical of current Gov. Bruce Rauner for failing to coming to an agreement with the Legislature on an operating budget for the state.

NPR Illinois has aggregated its coverage of the effects of the budget impasse under the “Past Due” banner at nprillinois.org.

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May 13, 2017 at 12:08AM

NPR Illinois sets state budget forum Wednesday in Champaign

Highland’s student online newspaper growing with new major

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ROCKFORD — While high school journalism classes venture into the digital world, area community colleges in the area are already there: Both Rock Valley College and Highland Community College have done away with print newspapers, and started expanding the digital tools available to their students.

At Highland Community College, Mass Communications professor and Highland Chronicle Adviser Kate Perkins said she’s enjoyed seeing the program grow over the past three years.

Two years ago the Highland Chronicle printed monthly and had staff of four. Today, following the college’s formation of a mass communications major at the college, the staff of 15 manage an online news site and print a magazine once each semester.

“There’s this excitement with online news,” she said. “The students are excited to share their stories on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. It really gets the word out a lot better.”

Funding for the Chronicle is built into the curriculum, and the class is taught as a practicum. It is an elective for any major on campus to join, but a requirement for the mass communication students. The class is taught as a hybrid, only meeting on Tuesdays, while the instructional portion of the class done using Highland’s online education system, which is where Perkins assigns weekly stories.

“I try really hard to be hands off,” Perkins said. “I don’t assign stories or story topics; I don’t even edit. There are times that I want to, but we have a student editor. Of course if there is something really structurally wrong, I will kick it back to the editor.”

Students post directly to the website, which has a check-in function Perkins uses to ensure assignments are posted on time. Of the 15 students in her class this semester, only a third are considering a career in journalism.

“There are a few mass comm majors who are really looking to make this into a career,” she said. “But some are all over the place. I have science majors and nursing majors. They’re just people who like to write.”

The adjustment from print to digital came with a learning curve, especially for simple changes such as hyperlinks and photograph file sizes, but Perkins said students were happy to tackle them. She attributes the program’s growth to the new mass communications major and to Highland’s digital progression as a whole.

“We are coming into the future with a lot of hard work of a lot of faculty,” she said. “Online news fits into the new atmosphere at Highland.”

Meanwhile, at Rock Valley College in Rockford, The Valley Forge staff coordinates all of their planning efforts digitally. Jerry LaBuy, mass communications professor and The Valley Forge adviser, said the decision to forgo print, as well as open the Valley Forge staff up to non-journalism majors was made in 2016 in order to boost involvement.

The staff of 16, half editors and half content contributors, does nearly all of their brainstorming and editing via email.

“With all the budget things, we don’t really have a designated meeting space right now,” LaBuy said. “And with the new nature of how we’re doing it everything is done online and a lot of the work is done at home.”

The Valley Forge operates as an extracurricular club, so it is not part of a class. Its staff is not paid. However, LaBuy said by opening the paper up to non-journalism students, the staff has been able to expand the kinds of content they can produce.

“Anyone who wants to contribute can,” he said. “We’ve had audio podcasts, video shows, right now we’re trying to put together a photo essay of life on the RVC campus. The students provide all the content; I just give them advice and manage the website.”

 Kayli Plotner: 815-987-1391; kplotner@rrstar.com; @kayplot

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May 6, 2017 at 02:45AM

Highland’s student online newspaper growing with new major

Northwestern journalism school lets accreditation lapse

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In a nontraditional move, officials at Northwestern University‘s prestigious journalism and communications school have decided not to renew the program’s accreditation, letting the designation lapse.

The dean of the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications said Monday that school officials chose not to pursue renewed accreditation, which provides outside approval of academic programs, because the process is “flawed” and not useful.

Medill dean Bradley Hamm’s strong rebuke is in contrast to what traditionally is viewed as a necessary process that gives students assurance that they will be attending quality programs that have undergone review. After Tribune inquiries, Northwestern officials confirmed the decision not to renew the accreditation beyond this school year.

“Our goal is always to be the best in the world, and this process doesn’t get us there,” Hamm said in an interview Monday afternoon. “We just don’t find that the review provides us with anything beyond what we already know today. It’s relatively superficial, extremely time-consuming and doesn’t lead us to a goal of significant improvement. It’s sort of a low bar.”

The accrediting agency defended the review process, saying it provides quality control and serves as a stamp of approval for parents, students and prospective employers. It also can help the public vet the qualifications of journalists.

“To a public concerned about the performance of the media, accreditation offers an assurance that those entering journalism and mass communications are appropriately educated,” according to the website of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications, which accredits most other journalism programs.

While typically routine, obtaining accreditation is a voluntary process. Medill had been accredited off and on since 1948, Hamm said, and continuously accredited since 1987.

Susanne Shaw, executive director of the communications accreditation group, said Medill did not participate in the process to renew its accreditation and she has not been contacted by anyone at the Medill program since the previous dean, John Lavine, left the post in 2012.

“They have withdrawn. They effectively are no longer accredited. I am absolutely clueless as to why,” Shaw said. She declined to comment on Hamm’s criticisms of the process.

Agency officials met Friday to issue final accreditation decisions for 24 schools. The Medill school was scheduled for a review this year, but since it had not participated in the process, its accreditation lapsed, Shaw said.

Northwestern University as a whole is still accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Hamm contended that Medill not being additionally accredited through the communications-specific agency will have no adverse effect on academic credits or the curriculum.

But as long as Medill is not accredited, its students no longer will be able to participate in the prestigious Hearst Journalism Awards Program, dubbed the “Pulitzer Prize of College Journalism.” Medill students have placed first in the writing contest 12 times and have won about $600,000 in scholarship and grant money through the contest since 1989, according to Medill’s website.

Hamm said the decision not to pursue reaccreditation partly was influenced by the agency limiting the curriculum Medill could offer and restricting the ability of students to take courses in different schools. He said Medill is creating its own review process that will start this summer and bring in outside journalism experts.

“I’m not saying we don’t want program review or accreditation. I’m saying we want a far better one,” Hamm said. “The students will be involved. Over the past year or two, I’ve talked to a number of groups about how we want better ways to manage ourselves.”

The accreditation agency certifies more than 100 journalism, media and communications programs throughout the country. Eastern Illinois University, the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University are accredited through the group, according to its website. Renowned programs at Columbia University in New York and the University of Missouri are also accredited.

Schools must initiate the accreditation process by reaching out to agency leaders and inviting them to do a review. Reviews usually are conducted every six years, according to the agency website.

As part of the review, schools are required to conduct a self-study and an outside team conducts a multiday site visit. The team typically interviews faculty, administrators and students; visits classes; reviews student records; analyzes budgets; and inspects buildings and equipment.

The agency’s council, comprised of journalism professors, deans and professionals across the country, ultimately issues final decisions on whether to approve accreditation around May every year.

drhodes@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @rhodes_dawn

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May 1, 2017 at 12:48PM

Northwestern journalism school lets accreditation lapse

For Illinois, a better way than ‘paying more for less’

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Samantha Nichols, 24, believes the people of Illinois deserve better from their government and can actually get it.

Nichols, a seminary student at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, is planning to join a march from Chicago to Springfield next month in an effort to unite the state and convince cynics they can hold their elected officials accountable.

“I feel, as a person of faith, all of God’s children should have access to the resources they deserve,” Nichols told me.

Those “resources” would include a quality K-12 education, free college tuition and free health care for everyone.

OPINION

Nichols is a member of People’s Action, which is part of the Fair Economy Illinois coalition, which hopes to end the budget impasse and solve the state’s financial crisis.

Fair Economy Illinois, a very progressive political action group, has a very detailed plan to obtain its objectives.

The coalition consists of Illinois People’s Action, Jane Addams Senior Caucus, ONENorthside and The People’s Lobby. They also are attempting to enlist the support of faith-based groups throughout Illinois.

Kristi Sanford, a spokesperson for Fair Economy Illinois, said her group rejects the proposed “grand bargain” hammered out by Senate leaders in Springfield and heralded by numerous news media outlets as a reasonable compromise.

“It would cut government services that help the poor and working people, while raising taxes on those who can least afford to pay them,” Sanford said. “They want us all to pay more money for less government, a process that has been going on in this state long before Gov. Rauner took office.”

It should be noted that the grand bargain appears to have collapsed due to the continuing political fight between Republicans and Democrats in Springfield.

Fair Economy Illinois is proposing a more radical alternative, which it claims could raise $23 billion a year in revenue by closing corporate tax loopholes ($2.5 billion), enacting a graduated income tax ($9 billion) and passing a “LaSalle Street Tax” ($12 billion).

According to the organization’s Web site, “the LaSalle Street Tax would require the buyer and seller of certain financial contracts to pay a $2 tax on the transaction. It applies mostly to options contracts (agreements to buy or sell in the future at a set price) and to swaps of cash flow or the risk of credit default (see “The Big Short movie or book for one explanation).  The tax on futures contracts based on agricultural products would be $1.”

The group plans to begin its march May 15 in Chicago and arrive in Springfield March 30, with several “listening stops” along the way. It would arrive in the capitol just in time for the scheduled end of the legislative session.

“We’re going to make stops along the way to hear the concerns of people throughout the state and tell them about our plan,” Sanford said. “We want to bring an end to the notion that there are differences between rural and urban areas that make it impossible to solve the problems of Illinois.”

It seems the group is going to be telling people that instead of accepting that Illinois is broke and can no longer afford to provide services and programs for the people of this state, the people should respond by demanding more programs and better government.

I’m not sure people are willing to believe they can get more from their government by taxing the wealthy and corporations. Working folks seem to believe that their jobs and the economy depend on keeping both of those groups happy, which means making sure they make more money.

“Health care and education ought to be human rights,” Nichols said.  “People have a right to expect more from their government.”

In Illinois, we’ve come expect the worst and usually get it.

Email: philkadner@gmail.com

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com

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April 18, 2017 at 05:13AM

For Illinois, a better way than ‘paying more for less’