23, No. 18, April 22, 2004
letters make an impact in budgeting process
Forrest, Assistant Editor
As the spring session of the Illinois General Assembly draws to a close
and legislators begin to consider the university's budget for the coming
fiscal year, which begins July 1, a broad spectrum of people in the
campus community are making their voices heard.
Barclay Jones, chairman of the Urbana-Champaign Senate budget committee
and a professor of nuclear engineering, is asking faculty members to
write letters to the Legislature describing the negative impact budget
cuts of the past few fiscal years have had on their abilities to deliver
quality education. He is asking faculty members to use their personal
resources, such as stationery and postage, for their letters, which
he may deliver to the appropriations committee.
Jones announced the campaign at the senate's March 29 meeting.
The letter-writing campaign mirrors a campaign that student members
of the Urbana-Champaign Senate organized earlier this year. By setting
up tables in the Illini Union, Lincoln Hall, Wohlers Hall and other
campus buildings during a two-day period, volunteers collected about
1,500 student signatures on a form letter that expressed concern about
recent years' budget cuts. Student senators Hassan Al-Shawaf and Felipe
Hillard, a junior and senior, respectively, in the College of Business,
delivered the letters to the chair of the House Appropriations Committee
and spoke to the committee briefly, expressing their concern about declining
state support for higher education.
"(The student campaign) turned out to be very effective with the
appropriations hearings that were held in the Illinois House of Representatives,"
Jones said. "We have hearings coming up in the (Illinois) Senate,
and we expect that if we deliver the same type of detailed information
-- not filtered by university administration -- that they may have a
better appreciation of what impact has occurred and would occur if they
continue to impose additional cuts."
"Right now, our university is less than 22 percent state funded,
and we're supposed to be the flagship university of the state,"
Hillard said. "Not even a quarter of our money comes from the state."
The student senators are kicking off another letter-writing campaign
and hope to get at least 1,500 more signatures on letters that they
will deliver to the Senate appropriations committee during its April
27 hearings. University administrators will address the Senate appropriations
committee that day as well.
Members of the Association of Academic Professionals at the Urbana campus
traveled to Springfield March 24 to rally with groups from across the
state on Higher Education Lobby Day. About 15 people from the Urbana
campus joined forces with members of the Illinois Education Association,
a union of which AAP is a local chapter, and other groups at the state
Capitol to show their support for higher education.
"The lobbyists got us in to talk to about 30 state legislators,"
said Jenny Barrett, AAP president. "A lot of the legislators said
they would try to do all they could, but it's a very tight budget year
and resources are limited."
Barrett and Hillard said they thought that a show of support from students
and employees made an impression on state legislators, who may be accustomed
to hearing only from university officials.
Barrett also said that involving primary and secondary school teachers
as IEA did on Higher Education Lobby Day creates an alliance that is
important because it helps "people see education as a continuum
from K to 16, so our groups (are not viewed as) competing for resources."
Barrett said the AAP may launch a letter-writing campaign or contact
legislators in other ways in hopes of influencing the Legislature's
decision on the university's FY05 budget.
In his Feb. 18 budget address, Gov. Rod Blagojevich's higher education
budget proposal assumed a $26 million reduction in administrative costs
across all public universities. Under the proposed plan, the UI would
lose $13.9 million in general fund appropriations, the equivalent of
a 2 percent reduction to its operating budget, which was also recommended
by the Illinois Board of Higher Education.
According to the governor's proposal, the UI's capital budget allocation
would be $10.735 million for repair and renovations at all three campuses,
including $3 million for planning the Lincoln Hall remodeling project
"We've been reaching out to students, the faculty and to our alumni
and all these groups have been engaged in helping us in Springfield
this year," said Rick Schoell, director for federal relations and
for government relations, who commended faculty and staff members, alumni
and students for their work on the university's behalf.
The state is facing a $2 billion deficit next fiscal year, "so
it's going to be difficult to find additional resources," Schoell
helps units prepare budgets
Campus units will be using new software packages when they begin preparing
their budgets for FY05. Full