Illinois Public Media News
Some Urbana residents any attempt to close a local elementary school would hamper education.
The group calling itself Keep Urbana Neighborhood Schools suggests funds from the countywide 1-percent sales tax approved last year go towards a new early childhood facility, or upgrading an existing one. The group has launched a petition drive asking the District 116 school board to use the funds as they were intended. Parent Lynda Minor is one of its members. "They did not campaign to close an elementary school," said Minor. "We feel that early childhood is a priority and they do need that new facility and we want them to use that money that way - not go backwards in all the progress we've made in our elementary schools by closing an elementary school and re-purposeing that."
Minor says shutting down an existing school would cause overcrowding in the remaining buildings. She favors District 116's option of combining early childhood with adult education to form a family education center. Minor says that would have been a great benefit for her and other parents if such a program were offered when her kids were in the early childhood program. The citizen's group plans to turn in its petitions at Tuesday night's special Urbana School Board meeting, set for 7 p.m. at the district's administrative center.
A group monitoring animal research at the University of Illinois' Division of Animal Resources says some of them have become very ill, and one has died as a result of negligence.
The executive director of "Stop Animal Exploitation Now," Michael Budkie, says such a problem isn't unique to the U of I, noting that animals have died at 30 other research facilities around the country in the last few years. Citing reports obtained from the USDA, Budkie claims the U of I uses a large number of animals in painful projects without the benefit of anesthesia. In another instance, he says the university failed to report severe illnesses to federal authorities for a year, and that the principal investigator lost the records in that time.
"If a researcher can have severe illnesses come up with the animals and no one knows about it, and he or she does not bother to report it for a year, that indicates very clearly that the supervisory mechanisms for handling animals research at the University of Illinois-Urbana aren't functioning properly," Budkie contended.
While the reports don't cite specific animals, Budkie says similar work elsewhere involved chinchillas.
U of I Spokeswoman Robin Kaler says these are all isolated incidents that have been reported to the USDA, and that the process to identify problems keeps them from happening again. She says one of the animals died when it was mistakenly administered a glucose tolerance test in diabetes research. Kaler says it was euthanized when attempts to revive the animal were unsuccessful. She cites another case involving a formula to ensure the health growth of piglets, which were moved shortly after researchers realize they had outgrown their cages.
An attempt to expand the state's early voting program to college campuses in time for November's general election is stalled.
Senator Michael Frerichs, a Champaign Democrat, wants to make it easier for students to vote before Election Day by letting them cast ballots without leaving campus. "You can go on campus and see long lines waiting to vote, and students stand there for a little while realizing, 'Eh, I don't have the time. I'm going to go off to my class'," Frerichs said. "And if we spread this out over a longer period before the election, I think that won't be as big of a problem."
He's sponsoring a measure that would begin a trial program at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, Southern Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, and Lewis and Clark Community College. The legislation requires county clerks to set up early voting stations at those schools. While the proposal made it through the Senate, it hasn't moved in the Illinois House. Critics, including Representative Chapin Rose of Mahomet, estimate it could cost counties about one hundred thousand dollars to set up the voting stations. Rose says communities shouldn't be left to pick up that tab when college students can already head to the polls on their campuses on Election Day.
The University of Illinois' Board of Trustees has approved a $620,000 salary for the school's new president, and a 9.5% increase in tuition. The board approved the measures on a voice vote Thursday afternoon. Earlier, protesters marched outside the board's meeting, demanding that new President Michael Hogan be paid only $450,000 annually. Hogan's salary is $170,000 more than that received by his predecessor, B. Joseph White.
On the tuition increase, Interim President Stanley Ikenberry says budget cuts and employee furloughs weren't enough to balance the budget. "But students also are going to need to share a portion of the load," said Ikenberry. "Asking them to share at basically an inflationary rate is, I think, a good balance policy that's fair to students and other groups within the university." For incoming students, tuition will go up $902 dollars per year to $10,386 at the Urbana campus, $792 a year to $9,134 at the Chicago campus, and $706 per year to $8,108 at the Springfield campus.
Ikenberry also said at the meeting that Hogan deserves the higher salary. Ikenberry says Hogan's salary puts him in the middle of the pay scale for Big Ten presidents. He says Hogan has "superb academic credentials.
The University of Illinois' educational outreach to the state is planning for big cuts over the next year.
U of I Extension plans to realign its offices in every county, combining several of those county offices into multi-county regions with shared administration. For example, one region would be made out of Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion counties.
"We will have a hub office which will contain most of our people," said Bob Hoeft, the interim extension director. "In the counties that don't have the hub, they will have a satellite office. That office isn't going to be what we've had in the past -- it will probably be smaller. It will probably not be open every day of the week."
But Hoeft says the satellite offices would be able to provide clients with publications and other information without the need to make a long drive to another county. He says the target of the consolidation is to save $7 million over the next budget year, about the same amount of money U of I Extension had to cut from the current year's budget.
University of Illinois trustees will vote Thursday (May 20th) to confirm the schools' incoming president and to raise tuition. But first ... a trio of legislators and union members will protest.
Michael Hogan will make $620,000 a year as the U of I's president. The last Illinois president. B. Joseph White, made $450,000.
State Senator Marty Sandoval of Cicero is one of several Democrats who say Hogan should forgo the hike. He says it will start Hogan off on the wrong foot ... given that the school's set to increase tuition by 9.5%.
"Everyone has been very public about holding the line on cost", says Sandoval. "And ... it's just apparent that the board of the University of Illinois, and President Hogan just don't get it. That people are hurting."
Sandoval wants a tuition freeze. The SEIU union says when its members are asked to take furloughs and accept layoffs, the university's top administrator should set an example. University spokesman Tom Hardy defends Hogan's package as comparable with peer institutions. Hardy says the pay is what's needed to get the best person for the job.
Former 1960s radical and University of Illinois-Chicago Professor Bill Ayers and a student are dropping their lawsuit against the University of Wyoming.
Court papers asking that the lawsuit be dismissed with prejudice were filed Tuesday afternoon. The move will bring to a close a situation that caused some to question UW's commitment to academic freedom and others to criticize the college for inviting a person with Ayers' past.
Ayers and student Meghan Lanker filed the lawsuit a month ago in U.S. District Court, contending that the university was preventing Ayers from speaking on campus. They contended the college had violated their rights to free speech and assembly.
A judge granted a preliminary injunction that allowed Ayers to speak on campus, which he did on April 28.
The Illinois Liquor Control Commission admits some changes need to be made in laws concerning happy hour promotions at bars. The Commission dismissed some of those violations at its first-ever meeting in Urbana Tuesday. Most of the tickets were issued during the weekend of March 5th, when many University of Illinois students and guests celebrate 'Unofficial' St. Patrick's Day. Acting Commission Chairman Stephen Schnorf says it was never the panel's intention to punish a bar for misinterpreting the law.
"If we saw things that we thought were encouraging binge drinking or encouraging underage consumption, we wouldn't be very patient with that," said Schnorf. "In these cases, it looked like there were some legitimate misunderstandings, and so we want a little more clarity before we start doing rigorous enforcement in some of these areas of the happy hour law," The violations at Campustown bars like Kam's and Legends were related to concerns that they were offering discounts on refills, or that patrons gave off the impression that they were allowed to engage in binge drinking by purchasing two drinks at once.
Kam's owner Eric Meyer says happy hour laws have created confusion not only around campus area bars, but across the state. He says it's common knowledge that sports venues enable someone to purchase two drinks at once. "I think that's been a standard practice at most of our sporting venues." said Meyer. "We've been able to go up and grab two drinks everywhere we go. That's kind of common knowledge and this is probably an area that has not been enforced. I understand the agent's concern to enforce this during a weekend of great concern and potential binge drinking. I don't think that was the intention here of any of the individuals involved."
Most underage drinking violations handled by the state in Tuesday's 2-hour hearing concerned grocery and convenience stores in Champaign, Urbana, and Danville. Schnorf says the Liquor Control Commission's decision to hold hearings away from Springfield and Chicago was to accommodate bar owners and the attorneys representing them, letting them cut down on travel time.
New contracts for residential recycling pickup in Urbana are on hold, until the city council gets answers about why apartment dwellers would be able to recycle more materials than those who live in single-family homes
The extra material in question is number six polystyrene plastic. Urbana-based Community Resource is offering to pick up the hard-to-recycle plastic --- except for foam --- in its winning bid for multi-family recycling in the city. But ABC Sanitary Hauling of Champaign would NOT recycle Number Six, under its winning bid to continue as Urbana's single-family curbside recycler.
Alderman Charlie Smyth says he wants both residential recycling programs in Urbana to accept Number Six Plastic.
"Because really, it's confusing to have one program doing more than the other", says Smyth. "I'll just as soon put my stuff in Multi-Family, because I'll be able to more. I want to be able to put all my plastic film and #6 plastic in, and not have to worry about checking all the stupid numbers. If I just know I can put every bit of plastic in the barrel, I'm going to be happy."
The Urbana City Council was set to vote on both the curbside and multi-family recycling bids Monday night. But now the issue goes back to the city council's Committee of the Whole for more discussion.
The latest report aimed at cutting costs on the University of Illinois' Urbana campus suggests some redundancies are taking place, and that's partially brought on by a lack of communication.
College of Business Dean Larry DeBrock headed a team asked to review the Office of Vice Chancellor for Public Engagement. Units under it include the U of I's Office of Corporate Relations. DeBrock's team says that office doesn't always disseminate information it shares with the private sector with fundraising groups on campus. His team also learned that some faculty need more help in facilitating relationships with corporations. DeBrock says another key to his group's findings involved sustainable practices, like cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
"There's a lot of very great and intense interest in sustainability issues on this campus, as there are on all research campuses right now," said DeBrock. "Because these are imporatant issues off the front page of the newspaper, and they mean to where our society is going to go over the next generation that has caused a lot of interest among both faculty and students... indeed even the campus in a sense of thinking about the sustainability of our operations."
DeBrock's team suggests there should be a central position on the Urbana campus concerned with sustainability, but the group was unsure if a central office would be necessary for getting the message out. His group says the campus is missing an opportunity for failing to coordinate the work of U of I Facilities and Services with the energy efficient research, and studies of students and faculty.
The U of I will take letters in response to the report on Vice Chancellor for Public Engagement through May 28th.
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