By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
Community leaders joined dozens of Chicago State University students at a rally Tuesday, April 26, saying a temporary $21 million bailout is not enough to keep the school open until the state’s budget crisis is resolved.
During Tuesday’s late night “Save Chicago State University” (CSU) rally held at the Haven of Rest M.B. Church, 7925 S. South Chicago Avenue, numerous speakers had the same message—CSU is not closed, and it will live on for generations to come.
The rally was held days after Governor Bruce Rauner signed SB 205, a $600 million stopgap measure that gives CSU 60 percent of its funding through September, or $21.1 million. The rally was hosted by “The Black Committee To Save Chicago State University,” which is calling on the Illinois General Assembly to fully fund CSU.
Cecil B. Lucy, interim vice president of Administration and Finance at CSU said the temporary bailout may have been a win but the $21.1 million allocated to CSU is not enough to keep the school afloat until August.
“Our budget is in excess of $100 million and that the normal appropriations are approximately $35 million,” Lucy explained. We’re short as it relates to what we need to operate on because given the fact that we have 4,500 students and over 900 staff.”
“That $100 million affects the community in a very positive way because if you look at the direct dollars of the payroll…benefits exceeding $8 million, contractual services…purchases and procurement of over $20 million, that is a major economic impact on the South Side of the city,” Lucy said.
Lucy said no other university in Illinois could match what CSU is doing for its students. This Thursday, CSU, which is 150 years old, is graduating nearly 1,000 students. “Those students will go on to impact the world in a very positive way…. The importance of CSU and the brilliance of the faculty that we have and their dedication and commitment with the success of our students, you can’t put a price tag on that. It’s priceless.”
Alderman Michelle Harris, a graduate of CSU, said she does not see that much fighting to save CSU. “College represents nature and nature…. We got to get together to send a message…. I am asking you to get excited, revved up about the educational experience and opportunity for Black folks….”
Charles Preston, 25, a senior majoring in African American Studies. Though this is the week of finals, student Preston led protests on the South Side and downtown. He said CSU is still in a crisis, which upsets him but is a reminder that he has to keep on marching. He urged lawmakers to continue fighting for more funds “and to not compromise” on the funding. “There is no reason why our university should close….
“I want to build this Black community to what it used to be.” Years ago, Preston said, if this had happened pastors would have opened the doors of their churches and raised this issue. “We can’t trust the state to do what we have to do. It’s all about self-determination…. We must continue to raise this issue….”
Robert Bionaz, associate professor of history at CSU remembered when college was affordable like $56 a semester and said, “I don’t think our goal should be just to get enough funding to enable our students to pay $10,000 a year. I think our ultimate goal should be to make education free. Education is not a privilege. It is a right.”
“We need to fully fund CSU and the MAP grant program,” Bionaz said. He urged people to increase CSU’s enrollment.
Professor Phillip Beverly said every story he reads indicated CSU was closing and made it clear “We are not closing. We’re open for business.” He said that wrong message is “killing our business…send us your enemies. We’ll take early retirees who just want to do something to occupy their times. We’ll take veterans….”
“If you are an alum of our beloved university, check in on us,” Beverly said. He said since the last 20 years, CSU has awarded 20,000 doctorate degrees…. We’re engaged in a friend-raising campaign right now….”
Brenda A. Sheriff, first vice president, Chicago Southside Branch of the NAACP said her organization is also calling for full funding for CSU. “It takes time, talent and treasure…we put that on the line…. On May 4th, the NAACP is having its ‘Lobbying Day.’ She urged others to come to Springfield.
Reverend Leon Finney, Jr. praised the students for organizing including into white districts causing pressure to be applied on elected officials who were not in favor of voting for CSU funding. “For the next 90 days or so, there is a lot of work to be done…. We have to organize” our allies and opposition ”to support our causes.”
At the end of the rally, organizers raised $659.00 of which $459.00 will go to The Black Committee To Save Chicago State University for printing expenses and $200 will go to the Foundation for CSU, according to Lucy, the treasurer.