Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 03, 2009

UI Presidents Warn of Budget Holdbacks But Promise No Furloughs…for Now

The outgoing and incoming leaders at the University of Illinois are asking units to set aside six percent of their current budgets.

President Joseph White and his interim successor, Stanley Ikenberry, say the university is dealing with serious cash flow problems because the state isn't keeping up with billings. The state is giving the U of I 719 million dollars this fiscal year, but White and Ikenberry say the U of I has seen little of that so far.

So chief financial officer Walter Knorr says campuses will have to hold back about 45 million dollars in this year's proposed spending, or about 45 million dollars. Knorr says the university has gotten used to holdbacks and recissions, such as last year when ten percent was set aside.

"In 2009 all we ended up with was a 2 1/2% recission. It ended up only being a slow cash payment cycle from the state," Knorr said.

Knorr says the university believes it can hold off any employee furloughs through the end of the calendar year and will try to avoid them next year as well. But the presidents' letter to campus officials still asks that hiring be limited to critical needs.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 03, 2009

Educators and Students Discuss Ways to Curb Anti-Gay Bullying in Schools

Protecting gay, lesbian and transgender students at school was the topic of a forum that drew over 300 people to Parkland College in Champaign last night.

A panel of teachers, school administrators, counselors and students discussed the impact of anti-gay bullying, and efforts --- both successful and unsuccessful --- to deal with it.

Panelist and teacher Stacy Gross helped found the Gay-Straight Alliance student group at Champaign's Centennial High School. She says the group struggled to win official school recognition --- and that its first promotional flyers were quickly torn down by opponents.

"Ultimately though, GSA just wove itself into the fabric of our school", said Gross. "And it became a normally accepted club. Now our flyers stay up way too long and we have to really make an effort to take them down."

Gross says she was inspired to act after mentoring a student who faced anti-gay harassment at Centennial. She says she still often hears anti-gay remarks from students, and notices teachers allowing them to go unanswered.

"Kendall J", one of the students on the panel, says he's openly gay at his high school, and also the senior class president. Still, he says he and his boyfriend were physically attacked by other students when they attended prom together. Other students came to their defense. To this day, Kendall says "I still endure ridiculous judgments and hateful glances by those who don't approve of my 'chosen lifestyle'. And I still hear how 'that's gay' and that comment is 'no homo' or how that guy in the tight shirt is a faggot. All these are reasons to make school safer for everyone". (None of the students on the panel gave their full names or identified their schools).

Illinois Superintendent of Education Christopher Koch opened the discussion by calling on the audience of educators, students and parents to check up on what their schools do to keep students safe, whatever their sexual identity.

"Make a point to check whether your anti-bullying policies include protection for youth on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity", said Koch. Make a point to ensure that all faculty and staff are aware of the policies, and are trained on how to enforce them".

Last night's forum was sponsored by the East Central Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, part of a statewide Safe Schools Alliance which has held similar forums in Peoria and Bloomington-Normal.

Categories: Civil Rights, Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 02, 2009

UI Researchers Help Map the Pig Genome, Opening Up Potential Human Research

Researchers at the University of Illinois are part of an international group of scientists that's decoded the DNA of the domestic pig.

Their research may one day prove useful in finding new treatments for both pigs and people, and perhaps aid in efforts for a new swine flu vaccine for pigs.

Larry Schook is the U of I biomedical science professor who led the project. He says the pig is the ideal animal to look at lifestyle and health issues in the United States. That's because pigs and humans are similar in size and makeup, and swine are often used in human research.

Researchers announced the results of their work today at a meeting in the United Kingdom. Schook says they'll spend the meeting discussing ways to use the new information.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 02, 2009

UI Flash Index Rebounds a Bit—But Economist says “Whoa

A monthly gauge of the Illinois economy has made a bit of a rebound.

But the University of Illinois Flash Index cautions about putting too much into an October reading that jumped seven tenths of a percent above the previous month. Economist Fred Giertz says the first substantial improvement in the index in two years is evidence of an improving economy. But he says future months may show a much slower recovery, especially if employment doesn't rebound as well.

"Productivity has been increasing even during the downturn, so when demand starts going up again and people start buying more things it's going to take awhile before we start hiring back a lot of people because firms have become more productive, more efficient in the interim," Giertz said. "They don't need as many people as they used to, so it takes a little bit longer."

The Flash Index measures tax revenue each month from corporations, income and sales. Any number over 100 indicates economic growth - the October index came in at 90.7.

Categories: Business, Economics, Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 27, 2009

Former U of I Chancellor Herman Among Finalists for President’s Job in New Mexico

A week after announcing his resignation, former University of Illinois Urbana Chancellor Richard Herman is a finalist for a university president's job in New Mexico.

On Tuesday, a search committee at New Mexico State University listed Herman's name among five finalists. The chair of that committee, Del Archuleta, says Herman was among 18 people who interviewed for the job among 60 applicants. And Archuleta says a search firm helping in the process was well aware of the admissions scandal that prompted Herman to step down at the U of I.

"We think the search consultants really explored that,' says Archuleta. "And then the amount of interviews that we've had to date, reference checks, etc. made it such that at least at this point we've felt that he, with the great career that he's had, should be considered by our university as a possible president." The presidential search committee included former Illinois basketball coach Lou Henson. Archuleta says Herman is a finalist not only because of his record, but like the U of I, New Mexico State University is a land grant university, and believe he'd be able to garner the attention of state lawmakers, and lure in research funds.

Next week, finalists for the President's job will visit the campus in Las Cruces, New Mexico for 3 days of interviews with faculty, the community, and the University's Board of Regents. A decision is expected by November 19th. At the U of I, Herman is now serving in the role of special assistant to interim President Stanley Ikenberry. He's slated to start as a math professor next July, earning $244,000 a year as he takes a 1-year sabbatical before returning to the Urbana campus.

Categories: Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 27, 2009

Smart Grid Will Need Serious Cyber-Security

The next generation of the nation's electricity backbone will need stronger systems to protect it from attacks.

That's why the federal government is setting up an institute dedicated to computer security as it puts more than three billion dollars into improving the electric grid. The University of Illinois' Information Trust Institute will be a part of that effort, helping design software that keeps the improved power network safe from hackers.

Institute director Bill Sanders says the threat exists because the so-called "smart grid" will involve much more computerization than the current system.

"There's much more computerization, both on the distribution side -- and the distribution side is the kind of equipment you might have in your house that actually delivers the power to your house and the feedback and control there -- and on the transmission side, a wide-area data network that supports power generation and transports that power to somewhere near your house," Sanders said.

Three other universities are taking part in the five year, $18.8 million research program. The smart grid is expected to be more efficient and help consumers track and adjust their own power usage.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 27, 2009

Unit Four School Board Looks at School Designs and Budget Cuts

Spending cuts and a new working cash bond issue are the recommendation from the Champaign School District's finance director as a way to get the district through the new couple of years.

Gene Logas told school board members Monday night that he thinks the district should cut two million dollars from next year's budget, while issuing 2 million in working cash bonds. Another 2 million dollars would be cut from the budget the following year. Logas says the changes are needed to counter a decrease in state aid, a declining district fund balance and falling tax revenue due to tax caps and slow growth in the Consumer Price Index.

"I looked at the possibility of making no cuts at all", says Logas. "Making no cuts at all, though, sets us up with that five-million dollar deficit for next year, and puts us in a very precarious position. I just don't think we can do that."

Logas says even with a cut in spending, Unit four's fund balance will be lowered --- but will remain at an acceptable level.

But while the Unit Four school board considered possible budget cuts, it also considered new spending, thanks to the new school construction sales tax. Architects presented initial plans for the district's new magnet schools ---- a new Booker T. Washington school and an expanded Garden Hills school.

Preliminary designs for the new Booker T Washington School calls its classrooms "learning studios" with easy access to common areas, renamed "piazzas". Meanwhile, an expanded Garden Hills school building would include large spaces for art and music studies, and a stage that could be directed to both indoor and outdoor audiences.

School board members were impressed by the designs, although some wondered if all the ideas would be practical. Board member Susan Grey said that when they take a vote November 9th, board members will keep affordability in mind.

"The architects are going to throw all this cool stuff at us, and we're going to go, 'wow, that's great!' ", says Grey. "Then, when you actually start putting dollar figures to these things, there's things that may change along the way, because we have that stewardship, that responsibility, to our taxpayers, to use those dollars in the best possible way."

Champaign County's new school facility sales tax will pay for the new school buildings. A vote on the school designs is expected November 9th. Work on next year's budget will continue through the winter.

Categories: Architecture, Education

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 22, 2009

Twitter Helps Break News a Bit Too Quickly for UI Athletics

The University of Illinois Fighting Illini basketball team is nearing the start of a new season. But because of a new edict from the coach, you shouldn't expect to get any practice updates from players who use the social networking site Twitter. Rob McColley of the Champaign-Urbana website Smile Politely reports for AM 580.

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 21, 2009

UI Faces Legal Action from Student Denied Admission

The University of Illinois is facing its first lawsuit stemming from the role clout played in the school's admissions policy.

The scandal has already forced the University's President and the Urbana-Champaign campus chancellor to step down. Now a Taylorville man, Jonathon Yard, is taking the school to court. Yard's suit could become a federal class action case. He alleges he was unfairly denied access to the U of I.

The court papers go on to say Yard had a solid academic background, which was part of admissions requirements the university cited. But the suit points out the school failed to mention the existence of a clout list, which favored those with political connections.

Yard's attorney Larry Drury says he is are alleging the university has criteria on which they accept applicants other than that which is stated in their catalogs and brochures.

An investigation determined some on that clout list were accepted even though they lacked other qualifications.

A university spokesman says the school anticipated such actions and is prepared to vigorously defend the U of I.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 20, 2009

Kennedy: Herman Had Been Contemplating Resignation for Weeks

The chairman of the U of I Board of Trustees says chancellor Richard Herman's decision to step down was not made overnight.

Chris Kennedy says trustees had conversations with Herman about voluntary resignation since the first meeting containing all six new trustees last month. But he says Herman and outgoing president Joseph White determined their own schedules over the past few weeks.

"I would like to say that was a part of a master plan, but in fact it really came out of Chancellor Herman and out of Joe White individually, both of whom I think really saw their life's work as protecting the best interests of the University of Illinois," Kennedy said.

Kennedy believes the transition in leadership will be orderly, even though starting Monday the U of I will not have a permanent president, chancellor or provost. He says there will be no interim chancellor, and interim president Stanley Ikenberry will handle some of the administrative duties along with interim provost Robert Easter.

Categories: Education, Politics

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