News Local/State

U Of I Groups Demand Changes In Demographics, Wages, Life For LGBT Students

About 150 students listen to a series of speakers during Friday's rally at the U of I alma mater statue.

About 150 students listen to a series of speakers during Friday's rally at the U of I alma mater statue. Jeff Bossert/Illinois Public Media

More than 20 University of Illinois student groups have compiled a list of demands for change on the Urbana campus, in areas ranging from the racial and economic makeup of the student body, to demanding a living wage for all employees.  The 'Demands for a Transformed University' were unveiled in front of about 150 students in a Friday rally at the alma mater statue.

The groups say populations of African-Americans and other minorities on campus should be more reflective of what they are across the state, and that the U of I track LGBT students with demographic information, and be given better options for housing.

"It fails to even provide a place that these students can afford to live," said Tyler Camp, with the Campus Union for Trans Equality and Support, or CUTES. "The recent all-gender housing that it has begrudgingly provided to its queer and trans students is some of the most expensive housing on or off campus.”

Ritse Adefolalu is an organizer with Black Students for Revolution. He wants more community engagement to address these and other concerns, saying lots of talk about change is only that, and rarely results in action.

“The community -  It’s kind of like a laboratory for the classes and students and professors to go see – poke at what the causes and roots of poverty are.," he said. "Rather than to really ask the community, to engage with the community, have their voices, have their input about how things could be done to better their lives.”

The student groups are calling on ‘severe’ penalties in all cases of sexual violence, including Greek organizations where such incidents have occurred. They also want a permanent end to tuition hikes, and a ‘living wage’ for all university employees.

Others represented in the one-hour rally included Men of Impact, the Graduate Employees Organization, Students for an Arab Cultural Center at Illinois, and UIUC Beyond Coal. Community groups represented were Black Lives Matter Champaign-Urbana and Build Programs, Not Jails.

Champaign-Urbana rapper C. J. Run performs in front of the alma mater during Friday's rally on campus.

Photo Credit: Jeff Bossert/Illinois Public Media

"We’re proud that our students are engaged in important social issues," said U of I spokeperson Robin Kaler, in a statement. "Many of the points raised today are ones we’ve been working with students to address. We know we can achieve our shared goals more quickly when we all work together as a community. To our knowledge, the organizers of Friday's event haven’t reached out to us, but we’re always ready to meet with students to let them know what we’re doing now and to look for ways to do even more together."

Organizations say the event, and the issues addressed, put nearly a year to put together. The next step to address these concerns - the groups are holding a meeting on Thursday, September 15 at 7 p.m. in Gregory Hall Room 223.