Illinois Public Media News
An astronaut from Central Illinois will lead NASA's space shuttle mission this afternoon.
The commander leading a seven-member crew on the shuttle Atlantis to the Hubble Space Telescope is University of Illinois graduate Scott Altman. This mission has been long-delayed, originally scheduled for last October. On-board equipment that transmits data back to Earth broke down, and it's taken months for engineers to prepare replacement equipment that the Atlantis crew will take to the Hubble.
This is one of 8 or 9 final missions for the Space Shuttle program. It's expected to be phased out either next year or early 2011, depending on government funding. Altman, who was on three other shuttle missions, says he'd like to believe the U of I could play a role when the Orion space capsule resumes manned missions around 2015.
"When I came to NASA, I'd hoped I would be one of the first people to visit Mars and go beyond where we've been. Now I realize it's the next generation that's going to do that, and it's the people I talk to at Illinois who are going to make that happen and be a key part of that," Altman said. "I kind of envy them (for) that opportunity."
Altman says he's happy to pass the torch to potential astronauts, but he admits he's envious of them when making return visits to his alma mater. Altman received a master's degree in aeronautical engineering from the U of I in 1990. He's a native of Pekin.
The University of Illinois and the union for graduate student workers on its Urbana campus have agreed to call in a federal mediator to help them reach a contract agreement.
The decision came Tuesday in the second bargaining session between the U of I and the Graduate Employees Organization. Administration spokeswoman Robin Kaler says they hope to eventually reach an agreement that the U of I can afford.
"We're looking to achieve a fair and equitable contract within the budgetary constraints that we face," Kaler said.
Meanwhile, G-E-O spokeswoman Peter Campbell accuses the administration of failing to reply to the contract proposal they offered at last month's bargaining meeting. Instead, he says the U of I negotiators only wanted discuss what he calls extraneous issues.
The current contract for graduate employees runs out August 15th. Campbell says they hope to keep the advances made by that contract and improve wages and benefits, especially health care.
University of Illinois Urbana Chancellor Richard Herman says the recent damage to a Native American exhibit are 'malicious' attacks that impact everyone in the campus community.
In a mass e-mail sent Tuesday, Herman decried the vandalism on the 'Beyond the Chief' exhibit on Nevada Avenue, the most recent occurring over the weekend. He says the U of I has the widest interpretation of free speech and expression, and will not tolerate acts of intimidation, violence or hate. And the director of the U of I's Native American House, Robert Warrior, says American Indian students on campus are echoing those comments. "They're questioning what kind of environment they're having to learn in. How safe is this place?," says Warrior. "And even if it seems physically safe to be on campus most of the time, how safe are the ideas that students are expressing? How safe do they feel, and how welcome do they feel on campus?"
Warrior notes the work of 'Beyond the Chief' artist Edgar Heap of Birds has been on display for more than 20 years in several other communities, and has remained undisturbed. He says the U of I exhibit made up of metal signs has been strengthened to make further attempts to damage the art more difficult. Herman says he's confident the culprits responsible for the damage will be caught.
University of Illinois provost Linda Katehi is leaving the Urbana campus after three years.
A statement from Chancellor Richard Herman's office says Katehi has accepted the chancellor's position at the University of California at Davis. Katehi was an administrator at Purdue University when she was named UIUC provost in 2006. Katehi is also a professor of electrical and computer engineering. In the statement, Herman called Katehi an individual of strong intellect, a leader and a nationally respected scholar. Herman says a search for a new provost will begin as soon as possible. UC Davis officials say Katehi's appointment there will be effective this summer pending approval by the university's Board of Regents. She holds two degrees from UCLA.
A recount of some precincts in the Champaign school district has found no change in the results of a tight school board race. County clerk's officials pored over ballots from 13 out of 52 precincts, and clerk Mark Shelden says in his blog that the results are no different than the Election Night count last month. That means Stig Lanesskog remains the winner by two votes over Lynn Stuckey. Stuckey has the ability to challenge the results in court - she's not immediately available for comment.
A hand recount of ballots Thursday confirmed Dale Munds' one-vote re-election as mayor of Bondville.
The losing candidate, former mayor Karl Kennicker, had requested the recount. "I was worried about the three under-votes," said Kennicker. "There was three people who didn't vote for either one of us for mayor. I wanted to see if by mistake, someone had circled it or put an X through the box, instead of filling in the oval."
But the Champaign County Clerk's blog reported Thursday that the hand recount of ballots showed the same result as the April 7th county by computer --- 47 votes for Munds, 46 votes for Kennicker and three ballots with no votes for mayor.
Kennicker served as mayor of Bondville for 12 years before losing to Munds in 2003. He says he now considers the election settled ... and hasn't decided if he'll seek office again in the future.
Meanwhile, the county clerk's office scheduled another discovery recount for Friday morning, May 1st, at 8:30. Lynn Stuckey requested a recount in the Champaign School Board election, after losing by two votes to Stig Lanesskog.
Seven University of Illinois students have been given the option of coming home or staying in Mexico for the rest of their study-abroad programs.
The assistant director of the U of I's study-abroad office, Erika Ryser, says there isn't much for the students to do since the swine flu outbreak started making headlines last week.
"Their Universities have canceled classes through May 6 -- it's a national move," Ryser said. "So they're all kind of staying put in their housing -- most of them are with host families -- except for those who've made arrangements to come home."
Ryser says the study-abroad office is monitoring health and government websites and working with a network of other university offices to inform their students and determine what to do about summer programs in Mexico. She says two of the seven spring-semester students have opted to return to the United States.
Local health departments are keeping an eye out for the potential of a flu outbreak, but they've been planning for such an occasion for years.
Champaign-Urbana Public Health District director Julie Pryde says even though there have been no reported cases of swine flu in Illinois, there are some common sense measures you should be following, whether or not there's an outbreak. One is to stay home from work or school if you're sick.
"If you have a fever, stay home, contact your doctor or your health care provider," Pryde said. "Don't go around other people when you are sick. That's good public health practice in general, but it's especially important during a time where there is a potential for a pandemic outbreak."
The health district has been promoting a "Stock Two for Flu" campaign for the past few years - it asks shoppers to buy one or two extra food items or other personal needs to keep in stock at home in case a flu pandemic keeps them at home. But she stresses that there's no need to fear or panic over the potential.
School officials are trying to spread the word that cleanliness is also important in keeping influenza at bay - principals in Champaign Unit 4 are being asked to make sure their students are regularly washing their hands.
Film Critic Roger Ebert's name will have a prominent place in the University of Illinois College of Media.
The Sun-Times columnist has announced a one million dollar grant to establish the Roger Ebert Program for Film Studies.
The dean of the U of I's College of Media says it'll be the foundation for a media and cinema studies department on the Urbana campus. Ron Yates says the department will give students a chance to learn skills in an evolving industry, like screenwriting and film criticism.
It could help pay for several things: workshops, symposia, seminars, research efforts that might be done in films," Yates said. "It will enhance the program as it begins to take off."
Yates hopes total donations for the program will reach five million dollars.
Ebert announced the grant during the first night of his Ebertfest film festival in Champaign - Yates says Ebertfest offices would be housed under the new College of Media program.
The vote count is now officially over in Champaign County, and one race wound up even closer than what the Election Night count revealed.
Late absentee ballots were counted this (Tue) afternoon, with nine of them cast in the Unit 4 school board race that saw Stig Lanesskog leading Lynn Stuckey by only three votes. The count narrowed Lanesskog's win to just two votes. He says it's now time to concentrate on the school district's challenges.
"Managing through the end of the consent decree. taking advantage of the money now available from the sales tax, redistricting, restructuring plans that are going on, there's a lot going on," Lanesskog said. "So I'm hopeful we can all now focus on the important work that needs to be done in the district."
Stuckey hasn't decided if she'll seek a recount after losing by two votes out of more than five thousand cast. She says the result speaks to the importance of the ballot. "It's really about the power of the vote, and the need to get out there and vote, to be active, to be involved, to make a decision," Stuckey said.
None of the 29 extra ballots in the county were cast in Bondville, where a village board contest was decided by one vote.
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