Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 19, 2011

Davis Leads Dominant Illini Past UNLV 73-62

All those late-season struggles are behind Mike Davis and Illinois. The NCAA tournament is all that matters now.

Davis tied his season high with 22 points, Demetri McCamey added 17 points and seven assists and Illinois dominated UNLV 73-62 Friday night to set up another meeting between Fighting Illini coaches past and present in the Southwest region of the NCAA tournament.

The ninth-seeded Illini (20-13) took control with an early 15-0 run and led by as many as 25 in a surprisingly easy rout, after losing 10 of their previous 16 games to bring into question whether they'd even make it into the 68-team bracket.

"We always talk about it. It's not what you do at the beginning of the year. ... ... It's about what you do now," McCamey said. "Everybody will forget about what you did at the beginning of the season or the Big Ten season if you go out and win in March."

Bruce Weber's squad led by double digits throughout the second half against eighth-seeded UNLV (24-9), with former Illini coach Lon Kruger in charge. Next up for Illinois is a Sunday night clash against No. 1 seed Kansas and Weber's predecessor, Bill Self.

"It's been such a long time. Both Lon and Bill did tremendous job at Illinois. I respect them. Everywhere they've been they've been very good coaches, there's no doubt," Weber said. "At Illinois, they helped the program.

"I'm just worried about Kansas. That's what I'm really worried about, their players and seeing if we can match up with them."

Illinois moved to 15-0 this season when McCamey has at least seven assists. The Illini played without freshman reserve Jereme Richmond, who was suspended for violating unspecified team rules. Weber said he hadn't decided whether Richmond will play Sunday.

Oscar Bellfield scored 14 to lead the Runnin' Rebels, who had lost just three of their previous 13 games - all against BYU and San Diego State, the Mountain West's pair of top-10 powers.

"It's disappointing for the guys because they played really well in the last month especially, and doing the things they needed to do to create the opportunity to be here," said Kruger, going against Illinois for the first time in his 25 years as a college coach.

"To play like that in the first half, everyone was disappointed for sure."

Illinois was ranked as high as No. 12 at midseason but faded with a series of late-game failures. That wasn't an issue this time.

The Illini were on from the start, handling UNLV's in-your-face defense with ease and building a 23-point lead while shooting 63 percent in the first half. The Runnin' Rebels went scoreless for a span of nearly seven minutes in the first half.

McCamey ran the show, setting up his teammates early and then getting to the basket himself. He started the Illini's big run with back-to-back layups and finished it off with a 3-pointer from the left wing that made it 29-12 with 6:51 left before halftime.

Mike Tisdale answered UNLV's next basket - Anthony Marshall's driving layup that resulted in a three-point play - with a highlight-reel throwdown of Brandon Paul's alley-oop and Illinois kept rolling.

McCamey provided the finishing touches with another 3-pointer that dropped in at the halftime buzzer, putting Illinois up 46-24, and then leaped into a teammate before heading to the locker room.

It was the second time in the last three games the Illini were so dominant in the first half. They also rushed out to a 46-21 halftime lead against Indiana on senior day in Champaign. But in between, they squandered a 12-point lead in the final 81/2 minutes against Michigan at the Big Ten tournament to provide a fresh reminder of a season-long quandary heading into the NCAAs.

"I thought they played with a bounce to their step. When that happens and one team gets an upper hand like that, the other team's on it's heels," Kruger said. "It's not like our guys wanted to play with less energy, but Illinois won all of those energy battles. That kind of snowballed on us."

UNLV got within 61-45 on Stanback's jumper with 8 minutes left, but D.J. Richardson hit back-to-back 3-pointers and then a layup to bump the lead back to 22 by the 5-minute mark.

A Rebels rally that came way too late made the score look deceivingly close in Illinois' first NCAA tournament win in five years.

"It meant something to our kids, to our seniors, and I'm hoping now they can want more," Weber said. "I told them before the game it's their expectations that matter. How do they approach the game? How do they approach the tournament? What's their desire? It's the same attitude we've got to have on Sunday. We've got a tougher opponent, obviously."

The next task is to make it out of the opening weekend for the first time since losing to North Carolina in the 2005 national championship game. And it won't be an easy one against the Jayhawks, who have lost twice all season and will be trying to exorcise the demons of a second-round loss against Northern Iowa last year.

"It's going to take a special effort,"

Weber said, "but it's possible on Sunday.

Categories: Education, Sports

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 18, 2011

Renown NU Journalism Professor Pulled From Class

A Northwestern University journalism professor whose students are credited with helping to free more than 10 innocent men from prison has been pulled from the class that made him famous.

David Protess says he was notified by email Monday that he wouldn't be teaching the investigative journalism course for the upcoming quarter.

Protess will continue as director of the Medill Innocence Project, but he says he doesn't know whether the project will continue to be affiliated with the class.

Investigative journalism students usually conduct the project's investigations.

Cook County prosecutors have subpoenaed the notes and grades of Protess' students in connection with their investigation into an alleged wrongful conviction. And the university has been investigating Protess and the Innocence Project over allegations of ethics violations.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 18, 2011

Indiana GOP Says Negotiations with Absent Democrats Are Over

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels says it's "sad but necessary'' for the Republican leader of the Indiana House to end negotiations with boycotting Democrats.

Daniels says the more than 30 Democrats staying in an Urbana hotel have forfeited their right to participate in the legislative session. They've been staying in Illinois since Feb. 22.

The Governor says Republican Speaker Brian Bosma has bent over "double backward'' to meet unreasonable demands from Democrats on education- and labor-related bills. But Daniels still hopes the lawmakers will return from Illinois.

"I still hope they'll do their duty and come back." he said. "They're welcome if they do, but we can't wait forever."

Bosma says the time for negotiating is over.

"Time has expired," he said. "We're now in our fourth very expensive week of an unprecendented walkout. Approaching an American record, not just an Indiana record."

Bosma and Indiana Senate Pro Tem David Long says the Senate would start hearing next week on the state budget plan that has stalled in the House during the four-week walkout. The Senate will also work on advancing other proposals without waiting for House Democrats to return. Long says the Senate has tried to stay out of the dispute, but that it's 'disingenious' for the boycotting Democrats to claim they're negotiating.

Democratic House member Win Moses of Fort Wayne said there have been good communications on those issues and that ending talks would be an arbitrary and harsh choice by Bosma. The legislative session is scheduled to end by late April, but Daniels said he was prepared to call a special session if necessary.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 16, 2011

UI Researcher Downplays Concerns Over U.S. Reactors

As Japanese officials scramble to stabilize nuclear reactors following last week's earthquake and tsunami, the focus has also shifted on the safety of nuclear power plants in the United States.

James Stubbins, head of nuclear engineering at the U of I, said of Illinois' 11 reactors, six are boiling water reactors similar to ones affected by the devastation in Japan. One is about 40 miles away from Urbana in Clinton. Stubbins said there is no reason to be concerned about the stability of these reactors because it is unlikely they will be faced with a tsunami, like the one in Japan.

"When we understand better what happened in Japan," Stubbins said. "We'll assess what really led to the problems and upgrade systems where necessary or upgrade methodologies where necessary to ensure that similar kinds of things can't happen here."

Stubbins said because the Clinton reactor is younger than those affected by the tsunami, it has a more up to date safety system in place.

In a recent New York Times editorial, David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists writes that the primary challenge for the Japanese reactors was losing their normal and back-up power supplies.

"The reactors were designed to cope with this situation for only eight hours, assuming that normal or back-up power would be restored within that time," Lochbaum said. "But the accident failed to follow that script, leading to serious problems cooling the reactor cores."

Lochbaum said "the one-two punch" from an earthquake and tsunami disabled numerous emergency systems.

According to Lochbaum, most reactors in the U.S. are designed to cope with power outages lasting only four hours. He said following the situation in Japan, measures should be taken to increase the chances of restoring power within the "assumed time period or providing better cooling options when that time runs out."

He noted that the incident in Japan is a reminder of the need to revisit emergency plans to make sure people are protected when a disaster hits.

Categories: Education, Energy, Science

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 15, 2011

U of I Trustees Could Delay Wind Turbine Decision Next Week

University of Illinois Trustees could postpone their decision next week on constructing a wind turbine on the Urbana campus.

Audit and Budget Committee chair Ed McMillan said it is likely the U of I will seek another extension of the grant covering $2-million of the project. Trustees will meet March 23 on the Springfield campus. Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing addressed the committee Monday, citing citizen concerns about noise pollution and shadows. She said the U of I has failed to address those areas, and meet with the public.

"The city does support alternative energy, but these things have to be very carefully placed," Prussing said. "And this is in violation right now of the Urbana wind turbine ordinance, and we'd like to see it corrected so it would be in a good place. And we're also concerned about the total cost."

Cost for the turbine project exceed $5-million. The head of a University of Illinois Student group pushing for turbine construction says delaying the project by a few more months, after two prior extensions, won't be a large setback. Student Sustainability Committee Chair Suhail Barot predicts the turbine will remain at its current site, by the U of I's South Farms.

"I think the university's position is correct in terms of its zoning," he said. "And it terms of the overall concerns, I think issues outstanding will be resolved."

Barot said students have more doubled their financial commitment to the project through sustainability fees, and not completing the turbine soon jeopardizes losing the grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. He said the U of I should feel 'morally responsible' for putting up the turbine.

Prussing said the university has also failed to consider wear and tear to township roads from the project, and suggests the U of I consider investing in an existing wind farm.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 14, 2011

UI Pres: Employee Reduction Program Could Be Used Again

University of Illinois President Michael Hogan said a voluntary employee reduction program on the Urbana campus went so well that it should be considered at the Springfield and Chicago campuses.

Faculty and staff were given a chance last year to resign or retire, and walk away with half of their salary, up to a maximum of $75,000. More than 480 employees left the U of I last spring to take the buyout, while 81 of those employees returned on a part-time basis. In addition, 70 professors are expected to leave in August.

The U of I's Associate Provost for Human Resources, Elyne Cole, said the number of employees who agreed to leave their jobs was "higher than expected." She said the university is expected to save $19 million annually because of the program, and those savings will trickle down to departments where cuts were made.

"It reduces the workforce both in terms of numbers and our overall salary obligations that we have for employees," Cole said. "And it will allow those units to make better decisions about how to use their resources."

While Hogan acknowledges the program's success in saving money, he said there have been costs attributed to those savings.

"You're losing teachers and you're losing workers," Hogan said. "So, that's one reason they do the re-hiring of retirees because you can still save money and get the service performed a little cheaper while you're building of cash reserves that could maybe help you make a permanent hire."

During a meeting Monday with the audit and budget committee, Hogan commented about a recently policy adopted by the U of I's Board of Trustees aimed at limiting tuition increases to no more than the rate of inflation. He said this will leave the university still looking for money for pay raises and won't strengthen the university's financial situation.

The state currently owes the U of I nearly $440 million in unpaid bills.

Categories: Economics, Education

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 14, 2011

UI Board of Trustees Chair Not Interested in Running for Office

The chair of the University of Illinois' Board of Trustees, Christopher Kennedy, said he does not have any plans to run for political office.

Kennedy is a son of the late U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and nephew of former President John F. Kennedy. During a visit Monday to the Urbana campus, Kennedy talked about the importance of using Illinois' connections at the federal level to lobby for more research grants. When asked about his desire to run for office, he said he doesn't envision a future in politics

"I'd say the University is political enough for me," he said. "I have no aspirations beyond the university."

Kennedy currently runs Merchandise Mart Properties in Chicago. He was one of six trustees appointed in September 2009 by Governor Pat Quinn following a university admissions scandal.

The Board of Trustees is slated to meet Wednesday, March 23 in Springfield. The Board bumped up tuition last year by 9.5%, a figure that didn't sit well for some students and parents. While the agenda for that meeting has not been set, Kennedy shed some light on how the board may act if it is confronted with another tuition hike.

"I'd say the board has made it clear that we have no intention of raising tuition beyond inflation," Kennedy said. "Tuition at the University of Illinois will remain constant in real dollars, and we just have to figure out what the inflation rate is."

The board of trustees adopted a policy earlier this year linking tuition increases to other factors, including inflation. The state currently owes the U of I nearly $440 million in unpaid bills.

Kennedy said the university should better position itself to seek out federal research grants that will help retain jobs within the state, and improve Illinois' economy.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 14, 2011

Sen. Radogno Wants to Do Away with Education Perk

Children of longtime public university employees do not have to pay full tuition if they attend a state school.

As long as a parent has put in at least seven years of service, the children pay half price, but Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno wants to do away with the perk. Radogno said during difficult financial times, it cannot be justified. She said it is unfair that a nurse working at a university hospital gets the benefit when a nurse at a private hospital does not.

"Even within the university community, it's not even universally applied," Radogno said. "It's applied based on your family status, which generally we try to stay away from that. So, if you happen to have children, you get extra pay."

Radogno said that does not make sense, and she doesn't buy university claims that it is an important recruiting tool.

Schools say that lawmakers have continually looked to higher education to help fill the state's budget hole, and that has already meant reduced benefits for university employees. Illinois State University spokesman Jay Groves said Illinois exports a lot of its high school graduates to neighboring states. He said the perk helps entice employees' children, their partial tuition and fees to stay in Illinois.

"You know she might be assuming that if students did not have that benefit, that they would go to public universities anyway, and that is not a given," Groves said. "So that is money taken away from the public universities if the student decided to go out of state or to a private institution."

If it gains traction in the legislature, Radogno's proposal would only apply to future hires. Current university workers would be grandfathered in and have the chance to keep the tuition break.

Radogno also has legislation that would eliminate full tuition waivers known as General Assembly scholarships. Lawmakers can award them at their discretion, and there have been cases of abuse. Governor Pat Quinn also supports ending that program.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 14, 2011

U of I Japan House Announces Earthquake Relief Fund

A fund-raising effort has begun at the University of Illinois Urbana campus to help victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The university's Japan House, together with the College of Fine and Applied Arts, have launched Illinois Japan Disaster Relief Fund through the University of Illinois Foundation.

Japan House director and Associate Professor of Japanese Art and Culture, Kimiko Gunji, said friends in Japan that she has been able to contact tell her they are all right, following last week's earthquake. But Gunji said she hasn't yet reached anybody in Sendei, one of the areas hardest hit by the quake, and Gunji said her friends in Japan tell her that the earthquake's impact is evident, even in parts of the country relatively unscathed.

Speaking of a friend who lived on the outskirts of Tokyo, Gunji said, "She said her condo shook (for a) long time, and all her china was all broken into pieces. And another friend who lived in Tokyo, told me that when she went to pick up her husband, it took her ten hours, just for the short distance, couldn't move."

Gunji said periodic, severe earthquakes are a fact of life in Japan, once that people prepare for: "especially people living in (the) Tokyo area. My sister lived in the outskirts of Tokyo. Always she had a whole bunch of --- stuff. If something happened, (this) is the stuff that's prepared. Water, and things like that."

But Gunji said last week's quake and tsunami were especially devastating.

Gunji said the private donations sent in for the Illinois Japan Disaster Relief Fund will go directly to support the people of Japan. She said they plan to work with the Japanese Consul General in Chicago, and the Illini Japan Club --- an association of U of I alumni in Japan --- to determine how best to spend the donations.

The College of Fine and Applied Arts has set up a web page for donations to the Illinois Japan Disaster Relief Fund. Donations can also be mailed directly to Japan House or the University of Illinois Foundation. Checks should be made out to UIF/Illinois-Japan Disaster Relief.

Illinois-Japan Disaster Relief Japan House 2000 South Lincoln Avenue-Urbana, Illinois 61802 Phone: 217.244.9934- Email: japanhouse@illinois.edu

University of Illinois Foundation 1305 West Green Street Urbana, IL 61801-2962 Phone: 217.333.0810 Email: uif@uif.uillinois.edu

Prof. Gunji will dedicate a traditional tea ceremony to victims of the recent earthquake and tsunami this weekend. The event is scheduled for Saturday, March 19th at 1 PM at the U of I Japan House, at 2000 S. Lincoln in Urbana. The public is invited, and donations to the relief fund will be accepted at that time.

Categories: Community, Education

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 14, 2011

UI Board of Trustees Chair Discusses Economic Importance of University Research

University of Illinois board of trustees chair Christopher Kennedy addresses the U of I community in the Beckman auditorium to discuss the importance of research at the university to the economic development of Illinois and the nation. He explains why advancing efforts to secure new research opportunities will have a positive effect on the economy.

Download mp3 file

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