Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 23, 2009

Roger Ebert Gives $1M for a UI Film Studies Program

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.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 21, 2009

Late, Provisional Ballots Narrow Unit 4 Race, But Lanesskog Still Wins

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.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 21, 2009

New Emergency Alert System for Cell Phone Users in Champaign County

You can get information about emergencies in Champaign County by email or text message through a new service being launched this week by local public service agencies

County residents can sign up for the new service at champcoprepares.com. It's similar to the emergency system the University of Illinois set up in the wake of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings.

Urbana Fire Department Division Chief Tony Foster says it's easy to sign up. "It asks you general questions like your name and address, your email address, and then what phone number you would like that text or email sent to," said Foster. "It then will allow you to select weather warnings, if you want information from the University of Illinois sent to you, or something else like that. It will prompt and send that information to your wireless device."

Foster says if you work far from home, you can get information for both areas by writing in the zip codes for both places.

champcoprepares.com is getting its official unveiling this week. Foster says other counties in Illinois are also launching the service.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 20, 2009

Money Smart Week” Focuses on Financial Literacy

A week full of classes and events in Champaign County is aimed at helping people guide their personal finances through the tough economy.

The Chicago Federal Reserve is kicking off Money Smart Week this week in several Illinois communities. It's meant to boost financial literacy in a time when it's more important than ever.

One of the advisory committee members in Champaign County is Parkland College president Tom Ramage, who says students and their families can use the courses to chart their immediate and long-term financial futures.

"This gives students the opportunity to get direct answers to specific questions they might have in a short, free -- which is a key word -- experience where they can spend a couple hours, or a couple days, on a specific topic that's relevant, timely to them," Ramage said.

Nearly 25 community agencies, banks, schools and other groups are putting on classes and seminars ranging from basic saving and investing to making budgets and preventing against identity theft.

You can find a schedule of events at the Chicago Fed's website, moneysmartweek.org.

Categories: Business, Economics, Education

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 20, 2009

Marrying Technology with the Arts and Humanities

From your computer screen to your cellphone to much of what you hear on this radio station, the world is filled with digital media that make it possible for people to express themselves in ways unheard of a generation ago. Now, the University of Illinois is launching a new institute dedicated to promoting arts that use digital media. It's called the edream Institute. AM 580's Jim Meadows spoke with its director, Dr. Donna Cox.

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 17, 2009

UIS Chancellor Caught Up in Athletics Controversy

The campus senate at the University of Illinois at Springfield is calling for an outside investigation of the school's athletic program, after incidents which led to the resignation of three coaches last month. But the campus senate is holding off on a vote expressing no confidence in the university's chancellor.

The university is already conducting an internal investigation into the controversy, which prompted the school to call the women's softball team back from a trip to Florida, but officials have declined to discuss details.

Today, the campus senate, which includes faculty, staff and students, passed a resolution to conduct a separate independent investigation. They were also scheduled to consider a vote expressing no confidence in Chancellor Richard Ringeisen.

Before the vote, the senate removed all mention of Athletic Director Rodger Jehlicka from the discussions and is delaying a no confidence vote for Ringeisen until the external investigation is completed. Ringeisen says the school must address concerns about the controversy, but he says he can't elaborate on what happened.

"If you think that a chancellor enjoys not being able to share details with people so that the accusations will stop, you're wrong," Ringeisen said

Ringeisen says if he did reveal details of the incident, he would be risking a lawsuit. The campus senate hopes to have the results of the independent investigation by the fall.

Categories: Biography, Education, Sports

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 16, 2009

Flood of Federal Grant Requests Hitting UI Offices

The federal economic stimulus contains millions of dollars in research funding - money the University of Illinois is competing for, against dozens of other research institutions.

That's putting an unprecedented burden on the office that handles grant applications, which has already seen a big increase in grants over the past five years. The director of the Office of Sponsored Programs and Research Administration, Kathy Young, says they're still getting a handle on the crush of activity.

"We can't staff for what we don't know about yet," said Young. "It's going to be a concerted effort of the existing staff to shoulder the burden and do what we can. My management team and I are looking at what tasks we can parse off to keep the subject-matter experts working on the really critical issues."

Young says temporary staff may be able to handle the rest of the workload. The U of I says the federal government itself is also undergoing a flood of requests for grants from the National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy and other agencies that have gotten billions of dollars in research money. Federal officials expect a 60 percent increase in grant activity over the next six months.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 14, 2009

Champaign School Board Preparing for New Sales Tax Revenue

The Champaign School Board is taking applications until the end of the month for people to serve on a new oversight committee to make sure they keep their promises.

During Monday night's Unit Four School Board meeting, Board President Dave Tomlinson said the "Promises Made, Promises Kept" Committee will oversee how the district uses money from the school facilities sales tax approved by Champaign County voters last week. "The oversight committee's going to keep us accountable," he explained.

Topping Unit Four's list for spending the sales tax revenue is construction of new classrooms for Champaign's north side. They're required by the Consent Decree. The new classrooms will be added on to Garden Hills School, and be part of a completely new Booker T. Washington school building. The district plans to follow that with construction of a new grade school in Savoy.

In addition, Unit Four plans to use sales tax revenue to pay off the district's existing bond debt --- allowing property taxes to be cut. Tomlinson says the tax savings will amount to about 32-dollars a year on a 150-thousand dollar home.

The new school facilities sales tax takes effect in 2010.

Categories: Education, Government

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 10, 2009

Update on Whooping Crane Surgery

It was a long shot, but veterinarians at the University of Illinois were not able to save a rare whooping crane that had broken a leg. A spokeswoman for the College of Veterinary Medicine says the endangered bird died Wednesday night of complications not directly related to the injury. The college's wildlife clinic had scheduled surgery on the injured leg for Thursday. The crane was found in McLean County, where its flock had stopped on its migration from Florida.

Categories: Education, Environment

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 09, 2009

Two County Board Leaders Back School Facilities Sales Tax at Full Amount

The voters of Champaign County approved a one percent sales tax for school facilities on Tuesday. But the tax proposal faces one more vote before it takes effect. That's a vote by the Champaign County Board. The Board cannot reject the sales tax --- but it could lower it to a half-cent or quarter-cent on the dollar.

But County Board Chairman Pius Weibel says he will vote for the tax rate that the voters approved. "The voters voted on it," he says. "I think it would be a disservice not to do that (vote for the full one percent rate), or if we do it, we'd have to have a very good reason."

And Weibel says if the new sales tax rate was reduced, he thinks it would take away the ability of school districts to offer the property tax relief that they promised.

Weibel says the school facilities sales tax will go before the county board's Policy Committee. Its chairman, Tom Betz, opposed the sales tax personally, and says it won't provide meaningful savings for the average homeowner. But Betz says the voters passed a one-percent tax, so that's what he'll vote for, too.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

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