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University of Illinois Students Shut Down Board of Trustees Meeting

By Ben Rothschild |
October 4, 2010
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Trustees exiting the meeting as protestors begin chanting
When the Board of Trustees refused to answer students’ questions, they broke out into chanting, shouting “WHOSE UNIVERSITY? OUR UNIVERSITY!” and “WHAT DO WE WANT? TUITION FREEZE! WHEN DO WE WANT IT? NOW!” The meeting was effectively over. (Fight Back! News)
Protesters at the Board of Trustees meeting at University of Illinois
Students that had not been allowed in had lined the halls, wearing white bandannas over their faces with writing on them that said “Project 500” and “Tuition Freeze Now!”

Urbana, IL - On September 23rd, the Board of Trustees for the University of Illinois met in Urbana, on the flagship state university campus, to approve budgetary operations for fiscal year 2011. The University of Illinois has come under recent criticism for its mismanagement of University funds and mistreatment of University employees. 

Over the summer, the Board of Trustees hiked tuition by 9.5%, now making students pay $10,386 per year. Diversity on campus has also decreased. Project 500, a University initiative that emerged from the student struggles of the late sixties, had the goal of recruiting 500 Black and Latino students into each freshmen class. Last year, for the first time in 40 years, the University failed to meet that goal. 

When the Board of Trustees decided to hold their September meeting in Urbana, students and workers held multiple protests throughout the day. In the morning, members of the GEO and SEIU held a 50 person picket as the board members entered the building where they were meeting. At noon, campus unions and student groups held a large rally, in which about 150 people attended to speak out against the degeneration of public education. 

At 3 p.m., graduate and undergraduate students attempted to pack the room for the public comment session. Unfortunately, the Board of Trustees picked a small room to meet in and half the students were not allowed in. They were forced to watch the meeting from an overflow room. 

Students addressed the board and spoke passionately about tuition rates, the drop in minority enrollment, and tuition waiver security for graduate students. They requested responses from the Board of Trustees, specifically asking for a tuition freeze.

When the Board of Trustees refused to answer students’ questions, they broke out into chanting, shouting “WHOSE UNIVERSITY? OUR UNIVERSITY!” and “WHAT DO WE WANT? TUITION FREEZE! WHEN DO WE WANT IT? NOW!” The meeting was effectively over. Within fifteen seconds of the start of the chants, board members started leaving the room. As they exited, the students that had not been allowed in had lined the halls, wearing white bandannas over their faces with writing on them that said “Project 500” and “Tuition Freeze Now!” 


In November of 2009, the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) went on strike over tuition waivers at UIUC. Over a thousand people came out to the quad to participate in the protests. Over the course of two days, they attempted to shut down four major buildings on campus, as a work stoppage. Because of pressure from students, parents, and members of the community, the GEO won their demands of tuition waiver security, wages, and healthcare benefits. 

In the past year, the University of Illinois has accumulated a long list of grievances from students and workers. The most well known episode of corruption happened one year ago. Members of the Board of Trustees, the Chancellor, the President, and many politicians in Springfield were found to be participating in a scandalous admissions process, whereby unqualified applicants would be accepted on the basis of political clout. Many members on the Board of Trustees, the President and the Chancellor all stepped down over the controversy. 

In March, the administration doled out a $273,500 retirement bonus package for the Chancellor of the Springfield campus, Richard Ringeisen. On May 20th, the day that the University hiked tuition, they also approved a $170,000 salary increase for the new president, Michael Hogan. He now makes $620,000 per year. The administration also tried to use $100,000 worth of student fees to build a sculpture of retired University President Stanley Ikenberry. After the Chicago Tribune started investigating the matter and asking questions, the University changed its mind and decided not to spend the money, while one trustee still maintained that $100,000 was a “reasonable” price for a piece of art. The list goes on and on. Joseph White, the corrupt former president, is currently being paid $350,000 to work for the University and is teaching a course on “business ethics.”

None of these episodes compare with the real problem: the vastly inadequate state government in Springfield. It is currently $13 billion dollars in the red. While the administration constantly tries to pass the buck to the state government, the corruption has clearly seeped down through all levels.

On September 23 students sent a clear message to the Board of Trustees that they will not tolerate their mismanagement of public education.

Ben Rothschild is a member of the Undergraduate-Graduate Alliance.

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