By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader
State Sen. Emil Jones, III (D-Chicago) is expected to introduce a bill in Springfield that will fund Chicago State University through the end of the semester.
The proposal would call for the university to receive the funding originally proposed by Governor Bruce Rauner, around $30 million. Although it is an eight percent cut from the previous year, a CSU spokesperson told the Crusader two weeks ago the $30 million would allow for the school, which serves a primarily Black population, to continue to operate.
“Seeing the students at CSU rally around their university shows the community and the state just how much pride they have in their school,” said Jones in a written statement.
Since there has been no state budget for the past seven months, CSU has been operating off of contingency funds. Those monies will be gone by March 1, and spokesperson Tom Wogan said CSU would not be able to make the March payroll without an infusion of cash. It also places students in a position where they would not receive college credit for classes that would abruptly end before the semester concludes in May.
In brnging the issue to the public, CSU students took to the streets earlier this month by marching down 95th Street. They also support new university president, Dr. Thomas Calhoun. They say they have been put in a vulnerable position due to Illinois politics.
The school currently has about 4,800 students.
“CSU has been dreading what was to come from not being funded. We have now reached our worst-case scenario. We are out of funds,” said Paris Griffin, Student Government Association president.
Calhoun met with CSU students earlier this week and assured them the school would remain open through the semester, but did not go into specifics of how that would happen, according to students who attended the meeting. When questioned about a published report that said the ratio of school administrators to students at CSU was higher than any other state university, Calhoun responded by telling the students the issue was being addressed through upcoming layoffs. He also said the layoffs would not come from the police department or services that are critical to daily operations.
Jones’ parents have a building named after them on the CSU campus, and his father was a longtime supporter of the school which was located in his district. Jones said CSU has been a valuable asset to the community since the 1970s, and the school boasts about awarding more undergraduate degrees to Blacks than any other college in the Midwest.
“This budget impasse has a lot of students stressed out about their future. The majority of the students affected by Rauner’s tactics are students who don’t come from the best backgrounds, but are trying to achieve more to build their community,” Jones said.
Once legislators return to Springfield, the measure will be sent to the Senate Rules Committee to be assigned for further consideration. Wogan said the school is grateful for Jones’ efforts and other lawmakers and community leaders who have come to their aid.
“We are very appreciative of Sen. Jones’ efforts to bring us to a point where the state will honor their commitment to higher education,” Wogan said.
Last week, Rauner said CSU has put itself in a vulnerable financial position because of decades of mismanagement and bad decisions. CSU alumni in many ways have echoed Rauner’s claims. While CSU awards a lot of degrees, hardly any of its alumni give money back to the school, according to several alumni Crusader interviewed. Jermaine Washington is one. He said most CSU alums do not give back because they were not happy with how they were treated by the school.
“Once you attend CSU, you have a better understanding of the problems they bring upon themselves,” Washington said. “The professors are the best thing about the school, and they do a great job in educating the students. But the administration as a whole is terrible, and many of the policies they create at the school cause unnecessary obstacles; the main one being the math and English exit exams.”
The longtime controversial exams are a sore topic for many alumni and have been cited as one of the main reasons they do not give back in any way once they graduate.
Before graduation, CSU requires students to pass two sets of English and math exams. Students and alumni say the exams are a money scam because if a person fails any of the four exams, they are required to take and pass an additional class that gives them no college credit.
After a study nearly 20 years ago stated CSU graduates were skill-deficient in those areas, CSU administrators say the tests ensure CSU graduates have the basic skills necessary to enter the workforce.
“It’s a copout excuse by the administration, and it is a policy that needs to end immediately,” Washington said. “And two years ago, they got rid of the school student newspaper, Tempo. Whoever heard of a four-year university without a school newspaper? They have done a lot over the years to stymie student voices and prevent students from speaking out, and now they are crying about how they need help from the very people they messed over. It’s karma.”
CSU has started a new foundation in an effort to maximize outside funding resources. An exact amount of how much money the school receives on a yearly basis from alumni donations was not available at Crusader press time.
In 2017, CSU officials are hoping to celebrate the school’s sesquicentennial. The school opened its doors as a teacher training school in a leaky railroad freight car in Blue Island, IL on Sept. 2, 1867.
Today, the university is a fully-accredited public, urban institution located on 161 picturesque acres. The school’s name was changed several times before it was renamed Chicago State University in 1971.