Illinois Public Media News
Tests have found little to no toxicity from the algae in Clinton Lake, but state officials still say swimmers and other users should be concerned.
A 12 year old girl from Urbana had become ill after swimming there over the Fourth of July holiday. The state Department of Natural Resources posted an algae advisory. But they've amended it now that 2 out of 4 water samples found only very low levels of the type of algae that would cause a public health concern.
DNR spokeswoman Januari Smith says blue-green algae scum is common in most bodies of water, but it's best avoided. "We didn't close the lake to swimming or boaters or any other lake users," said Smith. "We just advised them -- we did this last week and we are still doing it -- to be very cautious. Do not swim in stagnant water or in obvious algae blooms."
Smith says Clinton Lake is not treated for algae and they don't plan any treatment.
The new University of Illinois president says he has experience dealing with state governments that are struggling with meager budgets, and more struggling will take place in the next year.
Michael Hogan says he wants to correlate the yearly increases in tuition with state funding reductions that are forcing universities to pass the cost on to students and parents. Hogan sat down for an interview with Illinois Public Media's David Inge, telling him that the U of I has to concentrate just as much on controlling costs, and future staff reductions are possible. He wouldn't specify where layoffs could happen, but he says a committee report has focused on certain services that could be restructured.
"We're going to begin right away when it comes to IT, human resources, strategic purchasing and a variety of other back-office operations, administrative operations. We can begin implementing the recommendations coming out of that committee and begin realizing the savings quickly."
Hogan expects a steering committee to help implement the first of the cost-cutting measures soon. In the meantime, he foresees opening a line of credit to keep up with bills, admitting that doing so makes him uneasy.
Meanwhile, Hogan says some steps to help ease the budget crunch can also be of academic benefit. He admits that students from outside Illinois pay much higher tuition rates - but he also says they're needed to bring a diverse perspective.
"We're trying to create a learning environment on campus that's more cosmopolitan and prepares people for life in the world they're going to face when they get their degrees," Hogan said. "So the best argument for more nonresidents, or more diversity or more international students, is not really a financial argument. It's an intellectual and academic argument, an educational argument." But when asked, Hogan would not give a target number of out-of-state students the U of I wants. The report recommended keeping in-state enrollment level.
Hogan says he won't get defensive about the $620,000 salary that trustees approved for him before he took over as president earlier this month. But he says he plans to forgo pay raises or deal with furlough days if the university calls on other employees to do so.
A University of Illinois graduate student staging a protest against the firing of a professor says controversial material in religion courses is nothing new.
Mechanical Engineering student Eli Lazar has been distributing fliers on campus and in the Chicago area, drumming up support for former adjunct professor Kenneth Howell. Howell was dismissed after a student complained about lessons in which the professor stated that homosexual acts are morally wrong. Lazar says he took a class on world religions... in which different professors covered major religions. For example - Lazar says a discussion on Hinduism contended that disabled persons were born that way due to karma, and something they'd done in a previous life. "The idea was we were there to learn about Hinduism - agree with it or not." said Lazar. "I've actually also sat in on Professor Howell's course, and think he's an excellent instructor. I think myself as well as a lot of other students are really upset about this because we feel that student sensitivity is starting to dictate how courses are taught."
Lazar, who is Catholic, says it's not a matter of whether he agrees with Howell, saying that's the language the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, and should encourage debate in class. "If students (in Howell's class) were to be getting bad grades for diagreeing with the professor, that's definitely a call for action," said Lazar. "I think if for some reason your professor was promoting a viewpoint with saying that you should go out and tell other people what they're doing wrong, that's fine. But I mean, this is a discussion on a controversial topic that was relevant, and it definitely should be allowed."
The U of I Faculty Senate's committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure is reviewing the decision. Lazar says he's confident the panel will choose to reinstate Howell. The student also says he's been impressed with new U of I President Michael Hogan's prompt response to his e-mails, asking that committee to take up the issue.
The West beat the East 9 to 2 Wednesday night in the Frontier League All-Star Game in Marion.
Two members of the Normal Cornbelters played on the winning side --- pitcher Tyler Lavigne and 2nd baseman Daniel Cox.
The Cornbelters are currently in 4th place in the Frontier League's West Division, with a 21 and 27 record for the season. The team resumes regular season play Friday evening, when they host the Southern Illinois Miners.
Gov. Pat Quinn has signed legislation aimed at protecting Illinois student athletes from dishonest agents.
Quinn signed Senate Bill 2542 Wednesday at the annual meeting of the Uniform Law Commission. The group works to make sure state laws are consistent across the country.
The bill requires government licensing for sports agents who want to represent students.
Agents could be investigated and lose their license for misconduct, such as defrauding a client or abusing drugs.
The legislation also would require agents to notify student athletes that signing a contract might endanger their eligibility to compete. Athletes could cancel contracts within 14 days.
The law takes effect Jan. 1.
The two major political party leaders in Champaign County say they were blindsided by Governor Pat Quinn's decision to change Illinois' primary election process.
The governor used his amendatory veto power to write a new provision into a bill involving voter guides. The provision would remove the requirement that people declare which party's ballot they want when they go to the polls. Quinn's revision would mean that poll workers would hand voters ballots for all parties, and voters would choose secretly which one to turn in. However, lawmakers could choose to override Quinn's revision in the fall veto session.
Al Klein heads the Champaign County Democratic Committee but doesn't like his fellow Democrat's move. Klein says it will make his job tougher if he can't find out someone's party affiliation by how they voted.
"There are appointments that currently have to be made on a partisan basis", says Klein. "How do you determine --- other than what the person told you --- what their partisanship was, over the last ten years or so?"
Champaign County Republican Chairman Jason Barickman has the same concern as a party leader, but he's ambivalent on whether an open primary is a good idea.
"I think there's a good-government argument that can be made in favor of it, and that's enticing to me", says Barickman. "I think there some maybe more logistical questions as to how party leaders determine who their membership is."
Barickman says Republicans he's talked to are split in their opinion over an open primary. Supporters say if people weren't forced to openly declare a party, more would come out to vote.
Governor Pat Quinn is replacing the head of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice which runs the state's youth prisons.
Kirk Friedenauer has headed up the agency since its inception in 2006.
That's when the Illinois legislature separated the youth prisons from the adult department of corrections with the idea that the state should treat kids, and rehabilitate them.
But the Blagojevich administration didn't give the agency any additional money and little progress was made.
In a recent interview with Chicago public radio station WBEZ, Friedenauer said, "Change that is meant to last and meant to endure, especially within the public arena, is a process, it's not an event, and it has to be one step at a time as fast as you can get there and we're gonna have setbacks."
Quinn says Friedenauer's departure is one part of his plan to move the youth prisons into the treatment focused department of Children and Family Services.
Quinn says he'll announce a new director shortly.
The University of Illinois is enacting a short-term plan to accommodate classes in areas like geology and biology that take place in the Natural History Building.
A recent inspection of termite damage determined that concrete was incorrectly poured when the structure's 1908 addition was built, that meant vacating that part of the building, leaving behind lots of research materials. Clark Wise is Director of Construction Management for U of I Facilities and Services. With the fall semester about six weeks away, he's requested that administrators waive competitive bidding laws for contractors, which the state allows in an emergency. Wise says just over $1 million will allow his staff to stabilize concrete slabs long enough to move research and other classroom equipment to another part of the building, or elsewhere on campus. But Wise says a permanent plan for the Natural History Building will take some time.
"We're starting to just have discussions now on what the permanent solution would be to this portion of the building," said Wise. "And does it make good sense for us just to repair the structural slabs, or should we have a more comprehensive renovation of that area that would take in deffered maintenance and other items that are present currently." Operations Manager for the U of I's School of Earth, Society, and Environment, Scott Morris, says he's confident materials will be moved in time for classes, but says it could be two to three years before repair work on the Natural History Building is complete.
The 1908 addition had to be vacated on June 10th. Wise says other buildings are being remodeled to accommodate all those who were displaced, including about 25 graduate students. But Wise says he's pleasantly surprised the U of I didn't have to rent out additional space.
It's been ten years since the Champaign City Council approved its first honorary street for a ten-year-term. And the council marked the anniversary Tuesday night by endorsing a renewal of the street for another ten years.
Honorary Illini Boulevard follows Kirby Avenue from Mattis Avenue east into the University of Illinois campus, past both Memorial Stadium and the Assembly Hall. Developer Kyle Robeson proposed the street name a decade ago, and requested its renewal this year to recognize the U of I's importance to the
"It's very simple", explains Robeson. "The university is the powerhouse that runs this city. Both cities, Urbana and Champaign. And that's why we're here. Or we'd just be another railroad town."
According to Mayor Jerry Schweighart, Robeson originally proposed Illini Boulevard as an official street name, but the city council decided on the honorary designation instead. Now, Champaign has honorary street signs honoring local civic leaders, athletes, soldiers, police officers, and entertainers. Schweighart says the honorary streets have served the city well.
"I think that we recognize some people that should be recognized" says Schweighart. "We get some requests that we have elected not to honor, for one reason or another. But by and large, it's (gone) pretty good."
Champaign now has more than two dozen honorary streets, and their special signs honor people ranging from local civil rights activist John Lee Johnson to film critic Roger Ebert. Honorary Illini Boulevard is unusual, because it's not named after a specific person. Council Member Marci Dodds says that's an inconsistency which warrants holding a discussion to set formal criteria for honorary street names. But she still voted to renew Honorary Illini Boulevard.
"I think we should go ahead and do it for a host of reasons" said Dodds during the council discussion, "not the least of which is probably the U of I could use our very vocal and visible support about now. But it's very different than other ones we've done. So I'm getting to think that it might be time that we really settle out on what will be an honorary street name, and what won't, so it doesn't look quite so arbitrary."
In addition to Illini Boulevard, other honorary streets in Champaign that don't honor specific individuals include Veterans Parkway to honor local veterans, and Burnham Boulevard to honor the old Burnham City Hospital.
Seven more honorary street names come up for renewal or cancellation next year --- including streets honoring Paralympic athlete Jean Driscoll and rock band REO Speedwagon.
A faculty committee will investigate whether a former University of Illinois religion professor's academic freedoms were violated.
Interim Chancellor and Provost Robert Easter says the Academic Senate's Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure should complete its review of Kenneth Howell by time the fall semester starts. The adjunct professor was let go after a student complained about Howell's lessons on Catholicism, when he stated that homosexual sex was morally wrong. Easter says it's the U of I's obligation to present all sides of an issue, and that's valued by the academic community. But he says there are areas that require a review.
"An individual can be viewed as going beyond, if you will, the bounds of educational discussion discourse to advocating a particular viewpoint." said Easter. "And that's the question that seems to be important to addressing this particular case. I think that's why we'd be well advised to have a group of faculty have a look at this." Easter says administrators need to see what the committee says before determining whether Howell is reinstated.
The outgoing chair of the Senate committee, professor Jeff Dawson, says it needs a charge letter from Easter before proceeding with the review. "It will specify the scope of our investigation with respect to academic freedom and tenure." said Dawson. "And there are other issues about long-term relationships between the university and more than one religion group on campus, and the nature of that relationship." Easter says the professor's dismissal has also raised questions about the relationship between the U of I's Department of Religion and St. John's Catholic Newman Center. He says Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Ruth Watkins is looking into whether it warrants further study.
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