Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 14, 2010

Reports Examine Diversity at the University of Illinois

Two new reports released by the Center on Democracy in a Multiracial Society shed some light on the state of underrepresented minority students at the University of Illinois.

The first report, which looks at graduate education at the U of I, refers to campus data from the 2009 Strategic Plan Progress Report and population statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau.

In the study, African Americans, Hispanics and American Indians groups in 2009 comprised a little more than 30 percent of the state's population. Meanwhile, the percent of those groups represented in the U of I's graduate school was significantly lower at around seven percent.

"The University has a persistent problem of inequity," said U of I African American studies Professor Jennifer Hamer, who helped write the study. "This is a public university, a flagship public land-grant university, and we don't have a population that represents the state, let alone the nation."

The report also found that in fall 2009, there were no Hispanic, African American, and American Indian students enrolled in many graduate level programs.

University spokeswoman Robin Kaler issued a statement saying the university is committed to diversity in higher education, including graduate education.

"We have worked for many years to attract the best and brightest minority students to campus," Kaler said.

Hamer said she has been encouraged by conversations with the university's administrators about diversifying the campus.

"They clearly see diversity as a value to the campus," Hamer said. "Now, the question is how do they respond to that? Well, I think once you define something as a value, you set policy and practices that emphasize it."

Kaler noted some examples of campus-wide initiatives dedicated to attracting minority students to Illinois:

"Many initiatives across campus are dedicated to bringing excellent minority students to Illinois. For example, the Young Scholars Program in ACES, LAMP (LIS Access Midwest Program) in GSLIS, SURGE (Support for Under-Represented Groups in Engineering) and SROP (Summer Research Opportunities Program) and the Graduate College Fellows program in the Graduate College. Recently, the P&G Science Diversity Summit, a collaborative event among the College of ACES, College of Engineering, College of LAS and the Graduate College, brought partners from minority serving institutions to campus to create new partnerships and initiatives to support diversity in graduate programs at Illinois."

The second report released involved 11 focus groups with 82 minority students who were interviewed about their reactions to 'racial microaggressions' made in the residence halls (elevators, chalkboards, dorm room doors) and elsewhere on campus.

The report defined racial microaggressions as "race-related encounters that happen between individuals. Individual level encounters can be verbal, nonverbal, or behavioral exchanges between people. Microaggressions can also occur on the environmental level, which are race-related messages that individuals receive from their environment."

The report is coauthored by Drs. Stacy A. Harwood who is an Associate Professor in the Department of Urban & Regional Planning; Ruby Mendenhall, an Assistant Professor in the departments of Sociology, African American Studies, and Urban and Regional Planning; and Margaret Browne Huntt, the Research Specialist at the Center on Democracy in a Multiracial Society.

Hunt said students who were interviewed perceived racial slurs negatively, even comments that were considered harmless.

"What we were finding is that the students were receiving the various forms of racism to be as hostile, derogatory," Huntt said. "Some students actually contemplated leaving the university because of these forms of racism that take place."

Students in the study that saw racial slurs written in dormitory elevators stated that they were more upset about the slurs not being removed immediately.

"I went to the front desk and I told them about it and it was a Caucasian girl there and she was just like, we've been hearing about it all day, and she kind of blew it off," one student said. "Then my floor had a meeting about the whole situation and my RA told me that nobody told them about the racial slurs on the elevator."

The report concluded that faculty and students should undergo training to help identify and stop racism, even when it is presented in an unintentional and subtle way.

"Some students won't speak up in class cause they feel like when they do say things, students won't believe their experience," Mendenhall said.

Huntt and Mendenhall said they are not sure if offensive racial comments at the U of I correlate with the number of underrepresented minority students as this was not part of their study.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 12, 2010

University Town Hall Meeting to Address Campus Violence

University of Illinois officials are holding a forum Saturday afternoon to address the U of I's response to the recent wave of campus violence.

On Monday, a student was sexually assaulted in a dormitory bathroom. Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Renée Romano said that attack prompted U of I officials to organize the meeting, which she hopes will help inform parents about what they can do to protect students.

"Students are in a lot of contact with their parents," Romano said. "So parents can remind their students to lock their doors, remind their students to use safe walks, to walk with friends, to use safe rides, and that sort of thing."

The university in recent weeks has agreed to hire more police officers, installed dozens of security cameras, and activated a call center where operators who can answer questions about the attacks. Romano added that she hopes this town hall meeting will encourage students to come forward if they witness violence.

"If they report a crime or if they see something suspicious, and perhaps they've been drinking," she said. "They're not going to get a drinking ticket."

U of I Police Chief Barbara O'Connor reported that police have made more than 25 arrests related to the campus assaults and robberies.

The town hall meeting will start Saturday at 3pm at the Illini Union's Courtyard Cafe. The event will be streamed live at http://illinois.edu/here_now/videos.html as well as for viewing at a later time. Questions may be phoned in during the meeting at 217-244-8938.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 12, 2010

Leader in U of I’s School of Education Criticizes Review of Statewide Teacher Preparation

A new study on state university teaching programs is being called 'questionable' by the head of the teacher certification unit at the University of Illinois.

The Washington-D.C. based National Council on Teacher Quality gave the U of I high marks this week for its undergraduate elementary and graduate secondary programs. However, it reported that Illinois State University has failed designs in elementary and special education, while Eastern Illinois University earned a 'fair' rating.

The council reviewed on-line course guides and syllabi at 53 schools, a total of 111 undergraduate and graduate programs. The executive director of the U of I's Council on Teacher Education, Chris Roegge, said without site visits and a real dialogue, the report commissioned by Advance Illinois is somewhat superficial.

Roegge added that even the U of I received a low rating in one area, before he rectified the situation. One component was not covered in the coursework the NCTQ researched on line, so Roegge sent the council syllabi for three additional required courses that covered those areas.

"I received a reply that said 'well, those courses aren't part of our analysis - which makes no sense," Roegge said. "We got that rectified. I said 'regardless if it's part of your anaylsis or not, these are courses that are required in the program. You're looking for this particular element in the program. Here's where it is. So there were a lot of things of that type that we came across."

Roegge said what is lost is that recent graduates are just getting started in the field.

"All of the great lengths that we go to to prepare them, and all of the assessments that we give them, and all of the hoops that they jump through," Roegge said. "When they receive their bachelor's degree, and in some cases, a master's degree, and they're initially certified by the state, they are still novice teachers. And the development of their skills and abilities as a teacher is just beginning."

Organizations that include all 53 teaching programs issued a response to the report, calling it 'faulty' and 'narrow in focus.' Groups like the Illinois Association of Teacher Educators also point out that the Council on Teacher Quality hasn't been accredited by the federal government, or any state board of education.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 12, 2010

University of Illinois to Study Health Effects of Common Chemicals on Kids

The National Institutes of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency have awarded $2 million to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The grant will be used to create a new research center to study how exposure to common chemicals may affect childhood development.

Center director neurotoxicologist Susan Schantz said studies will focus on bisphenol A (BPA), which is widely used in plastics, and phthalates, which are components of many scented personal care products, like lotions and shampoos.

"We know from laboratory animal studies that both of these chemicals are endocrine disrupters," Schantz said, "so they can mess with certain hormonal systems in the body."

One study will involve pregnant women volunteers from local health clinics. "We're going to follow their health and take urine samples during their pregnancy so we can assess their exposure to the two chemicals, and then from the time their babies are born we're going to follow them developmentally," Schantz explained.

A related study at Harvard University will examine how exposure to BPA and phthalates relates to cognitive development in adolescents.

Categories: Education, Health, Science

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 10, 2010

Furlough Days Planned at SIU Carbondale

Employees at the Southern Illinois University campus at Carbondale will be facing four unpaid furlough days during the current school year.

Chancellor Rita Cheng's office announced this week that an agreement has been reached with several unions on campus that will allow for the furlough days, as one way to close a budget shortfall. Cheng says other suggestions --- like requiring more furlough days for higher-income employees had been discussed as a way to make their burden more equitable --- but the idea was ultimately turned down.

"For example, if someone makes $30,000 (a year), a day is about $100," Cheng said. "For someone who makes $300,000, a day is $1,000. So there will be a difference of what people contribute, based on scaling of a day, rather than taking a flat rate from everyone."

Six unions on the Carbondale campus are still holding out for more information and options to avoid the furlough days. Leaders of those unions --- including ones for faculty and civil service employees - announced Tuesday night they would work together against the furloughs

Faculty Association President Randy Hughes said six campus unions are united in their intention to fight the furlough plan.

"All six of us will work to protect the rights of others to negotiate, to be free from any sort of unilateral or illegal action on the part of the university to impose administrative closures without bargaining in good faith," Hughes said..

The planned closure days are scheduled during student breaks in November, December, January and March, and won't affect classes. The university's student employees are exempt from the unpaid days.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 09, 2010

U of I Activates Call Center Following Campus Attacks

A string of campus assaults and robberies in recent weeks has led the University of Illinois to activate its campus call center for the first time.

The latest incident involved a U of I freshman who was sexually abused Monday morning in a dormitory shower. University police Chief Barbara O'Connor said just in the last day, the university has been flooded with about a hundred e-mail and phone messages regarding that attack.

"You know, whenever we get parent calls and or e-mails, we attempt to take an individualized approach to responding to those, but at some point, the volume becomes so significant that you can't keep doing that any longer," O'Connor said. "We're at that point."

She said the call center will allow the university to give plenty of attention to each caller, and give university police more time to investigate criminal activity.

"We can get inundated so much so that the work of doing the investigation can get bogged down in responding to e-mails and phone calls," O'Connor explained.

University spokeswoman Robin Kaler said the 60 volunteers who have agreed to help out at the call center work in student affairs, and have extensive experience handling privacy issues. They were each required to go through a 90-minute training session before they could start working the phones.

The U of I community is encouraged to forward all messages regarding crime and safety on campus to 217-333-0050.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 09, 2010

U of I Administrators Vow to Set 2011-12 Tuition Early Next Year

University of Illinois President Michael Hogan said it is hard to say how much tuition will go up in the 2011-2012 school year, but he said students and parents 'won't stomach' another one of 9 to 10 percent.

Administrators plan to recommend the amount of that increase by January. The uncertainty over state funding the past couple of years has prompted the U of I to wait as late as June to approve the next fall's tuition.However, Hogan said administrators cannot continue to keep parents and students waiting.

"That doesn't work very well for us for planning purposes, and recruiting students," he said. "Because it doesn't allow us to tell students (about tuition), half of them get some form of financial assistance. So students that are applying here need to know sooner rather than later if they're getting in, and what their financial aid package will be. Or they go somewhere else."

Hogan made his comments following a presentation on tuition and affordability at the U of I Board of Trustees' Audit and Budget committee meeting. He said the drop of state support in the past decade has been 'staggering.'

Associate Vice President for Planning and Budget Randy Kangas said the U of I's appropriation is below what it was for the 1999 Fiscal Year, before adjusting for inflation. The university is currently owed about $320-million in state appropriations.

Hogan emphasized that last year's increase of 9.5 percent was one of the lowest tuition hikes in the country.

"So we've got to change the rhetoric of what we're looking at," Hogan said. "Rather than the one big bump (9.5%) to get a realistic understanding of what students are actually going to pay year in and year out as they go through a 4-year degree program.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 08, 2010

Higher Ed Funding Reform Panel Prepares to Wrap Up

A panel created by state lawmakers is wrapping up work on recommendations on higher education funding. The proposals include changes to the MAP financial aid program, and tying state funding bonuses for colleges and universities to institutional performance --- such as a school's graduation rate.

University of Illinois President Michael Hogan said he thinks his school will do pretty well on the institutional performance front. But the commission's recommendations will also include increased funding for higher education. Hogan said lawmakers will have to decide whether increasing higher education funding is important to them, at a time when state government faces a financial crisis.

"I think this is all part of a larger discussion we have to have with the state," Hogan said. "Because the real conundrum here is that the state can't afford us, but it can't afford to do without us. So we have to find a way to sustain the quality of the educational and research product we have on all of our campuses --- at a time when the state has no money for it."

Illinois Board of Higher Education executive director Don Sevener said the recommendations include requirements that colleges and universities don't sacrifice academic rigor in the quest to get students to complete their studies.

"We do not want to incentivize colleges simply to pass students along to get more money for more course completions or more degrees granted, if those degrees are not high quality and useful in the marketplace," Sevener said.

The Illinois Higher Education Finance Study Commission holds its final meeting Wednesday, November 10, at Columbia College in Chicago. Lawmakers want the commission's final report is to be ready for review by December 1st. The Study Commission is made up of lawmakers and educators, including Illinois State University professor James Palmer, an expert in higher education funding.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 02, 2010

UI Urbana Faculty Senate Rejects Proposed Administrative Restructure

The University of Illinois' Urbana Faculty Senate has unanimously rejected administrative changes proposed by President Michael Hogan.

In a written three page statement, the Senate reported that plans to add a vice president, new duties for some administrators, and change titles for others simply have too many unanswered questions. However, Senate Executive Committee Chair Joyce Tolliver said U of I Trustees have been encouraged to refine the proposals, and discuss them further with campus Senators. Tolliver said one key area of concern is money, especially when the U of I's fiscal situation is dire.

"We are told that this is an investment we should make," Tolliver said. "That is probably true. I think some of us accept that logic, but many of us on the campus are very worried about where the money is going to come from in order to create new positions, and in order to do searches for re-defined existing positions."

Tolliver said the entire process for whatever changes occur needs to be slowed down.

"We were given an extraordinary tight time frame to respond to the proposed changes to the University administration," she said. "There are still entire areas in which we have asked for more information, and haven't been addressed."

A capacity crowd rejected President Hogan's plan at the Senate's regular meeting on Monday. The Senate's executive committee will send a much longer version of its statement to the Senates Conference, which is made up of elected officials from all three U of I campus Senates. That group will forward that document, along with its own advice on the proposed changes, onto the U of I Board of Trustees. Tolliver said the Senate is not afraid of change, but would like to seek out new ways to accomplish these goals.

Categories: Economics, Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 01, 2010

Quinn, Brady Urge Voters to Get to the Polls

Candidates for Illinois governor touted their efforts to create jobs and reduce the state's $13 billion budget deficit during campaign stops in Savoy.

Democratic Governor Pat Quinn returned to Savoy's Plumbers and Pipefitters Union Hall where he was joined by union members and state elected officials.

Quinn said while his Republican opponent, State Senator Bill Brady of Bloomington, seeks to cut the state's minimum wage and slash education funding by more than a billion dollars, he said his own initiatives while serving as governor have helped the state's unemployment rate begin to drop in the past nine months.

"We're not going to be tearing down Illinois; we're building up," Quinn explained. "We want to make sure we have the proper funding for our schools, and for our students."

Quinn touted his efforts to rescue Illinois' Monetary Awards Program, which provides grants to college-bound students. He blasted Brady for wanting to cut education programs and the minimum wage.

"If you're working 40 hours a week, you shouldn't have to live in poverty," Quinn said.

As Quinn was talking to supporters, Brady was nearby at Savoy's Willard Airport where he criticized Quinn's track record as governor, and reiterated his own plans to balance the state's budget without raising taxes.

"The last two years have been a failure for Illinois under (Quinn's) reign," Brady said. "Illinois needs a governor who will put the people first, not a governor who has secret deals, secret early release programs, secret pay raises, secret tax increases, and record unemployment."

Looking forward to Tuesday's legislative races, Brady predicted Republicans will set victory records across the state.

"We're going to do better than we've ever done," Brady said. "For too long we've had a Chicago-centric governance that needs to understand that there's more to Illinois than Chicago."

With Congressman and U.S. Senate hopeful, Mark Kirk, by his side, Brady also said he thinks Illinois voters will shift party leadership in the U.S. House of Representative by sending as many as four more Republicans to Congress.

Despite polls showing Brady ahead, both candidates are working to get out the vote until the polls close. The Green Party's Rich Whitney, Independent Scott Lee Cohen, and Libertarian Lex Green are also on the ballot.

(Photos by Jeff Bossert/WILL and Sean Powers/WILL)


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