By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
With a critical deadline for funds approaching, more than 60 Black leaders are gearing up to hold a major rally on the South Side to send a message that CSU will not close.
Led by attorneys Thomas N. Todd, Lewis Myers, Berve Muhammad, Rev. Paul Jakes, and Dr. Conrad Worill, “The Black Committee to Save Chicago State University” agreed to hold a rally from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 26, 2016, at the Haven of Rest M.B.C. Church, 7925 So. South Chicago Avenue. Also attending were Cecil B. Lucy, interim vice president of Administration and Finance at CSU, Rev. Al Sampson, Rev. Jedidiah Brown, Attorney Lawrence Kennon, activist Florence Cox and other activists.
The move comes as Black lawyers examine laws to determine whether Governor Bruce Rauner and other elected officials can be sued for violating the educational rights of Chicago State University (CSU) students.
Todd spoke at CSU’s commencement ceremony in 2010. He said the school’s rich heritage and future is at stake.
“We need to do something-have a rally and get the broadest possible support to show people in Springfield, and in Chicago overall that CSU is not isolated-that people care about it, and it is a valued commodity in our community and we’re going to demonstrate that,” said Todd.
Todd said the rally would be for informational and motivational purposes to let people know about CSU. With CSU facing an April 30th budget deadline when it will run out of cash reserves, Todd said, “Out of this horrific circumstances that they’re going through, more people know about CSU today than knew about CSU six-months ago.
Todd said if CSU closes, the economic impact to the Black community would be huge.
Todd has requested that deputy registrars be at the rally “so that we can use the buck and the ballot to change behavior.”
Facing an April 30th “D-Day” when CSU runs out of cash, Lucy, who represented CSU President Thomas Calhoun, said, “Given the fact that once we get to the end of April and the first of May, we do not generate sufficient resources to cover our normal operating costs on a monthly basis. For the month of May, we basically go into a negative spending mode to the tune of about $5 million. There is no such thing as negative money. You’re out of money. The situation is real.”
Lucy said CSU has a $105 million operating budget and has over 900 employees serving 4,500 students, that’s the economic impact.
“The average student at CSU is a female age 31 years of age. She is working, has family commitments. The reach is extensive,” Lucy said. “It is definitely the Black institution to support Black education in the city of Chicago. The importance with which we deliver student services is unmatched by any state university in the state of Illinois. It is the only source that provides a pathway to success.”
Lucy said the state appropriation is about 30 percent of CSU’s operating budget. She also said students are in a quandary because CSU has a question mark if it will be open in the fall. “That’s a major problem.”
Saying CSU has cut its spending and operating expenses, Lucy said, “You just can’t take $38 million away from us and expect it will be business as usual.”
It was Reverend Jakes who made the motion to hold the rally on April 26th. Hoping for an overflow crowd, Jakes referred to the rope-a-dope style of boxing champion Muhammad Ali. “If we can rope-a-dope enough, we can not only (show) the governor, but everybody throughout the state of Illinois that we’re not dead and that the African American community still has a fight in it to save the institution for its children.”