Daily Egyptian

Editorial: As budget cuts look ugly, Springfield sits pretty

It has come to this. 

Thanks to political posturing and empty rhetoric in Springfield, more SIU jobs could be lost and an already bleeding state university system may go into full hemorrhage mode. 

SIU President Randy Dunn announced Wednesday via email that the university will cut programs and eliminate 180 faculty and staff, amounting in nearly $23 million if Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s fiscal year 2017 budget passes. While this is a “what if” situation, it is a doomsday circumstance that would disfigure the face of SIU. 

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For those who have not followed the budget stalemate, Rauner and the Democratic Legislature, for more than eight months, have been unable to settle on a state budget. The sides play chicken with each other, toying with social services and public higher education funding in the name of political power.

Professors we know and love will be the new victims of this frustrating, prolonged game. 

Eighty vacant positions won’t be filled and 100 faculty layoffs could lead to 400 fewer classes offered to students. That means longer waits to graduate, and more money out of students’ pockets.

MORE: What SIU will look like if Illinois’ budget impasse continues until December

But what’s it matter to Illinois’ leaders? Their jobs are not in danger even though our classes are. The governor won’t lose his position just because our favorite history professor will. 

And the lawmakers’ sweet cherry on top is the possibility of MAP grants being underfunded. No wonder nearly 40 percent of Illinois’ graduating high schoolers are leaving for other states’ universities

State leaders’ attempt to cut into the opposite parties’ power — and both sides are to blame for this fiasco — have done nothing of the sort. Instead, they have turned the public against them, and the budget book against university employees.

Dunn said because of SIU’s status as a system with multiple campuses, the university would be able to stave off the heavy layoffs Eastern Illinois University is facing and or the possible closure Chicago State University is dealing with. 

But in reality, anyone with knowledge of the situation knew this day would come. The damage, after years of previous cuts, is irreparable. And this is just the beginning.

If this doesn’t unsettle students, faculty and the southern Illinois community at large, we’re not sure what will. 

This is the time for students to take action. Not tomorrow, not next week — now. Protest in Springfield, make your feelings known on social media and talk to traditional media. 

Professional staff aside, student jobs are in an equally precarious position. If you think working on campus with the university’s nonsense 20-hour cap is bad, just wait until 300 student positions and assistantships for graduate students are eliminated, as Dunn proposed.

More students will have to find work off campus, and jobs that give students experience in their desired field will fall by the wayside.

Call the people who represent you. Hold them accountable. 

Need some help reaching them? Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, can be reached at 618-997-9697. Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, 618-242-8115. To hit up Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, call 618-439-2504. Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, can be reached at 618-243-9014. 

If professors and students themselves can lose their jobs, why are the politicians who have allowed this to happen safe?

Dunn and administrators will ultimately get the blame for these cuts. It is Dunn’s name signed on these emails, but it isn’t exactly his fault. His tenure as president has dealt with criticism, some from this very publication.

But these cuts that could forever alter our university will undeservedly tarnish his legacy. 

Dunn has appeared to be making the best of a worst case scenario. The guy is trying to make lemonade with a urinal cake, and legislatures just keep pissing. No matter what he does, the final product is going to be terrible. 

Most of the legislators on both sides are products of public universities in Illinois, including more than a dozen former Salukis. How can any of them sit idly by and watch the state’s higher education system burn?

If anyone deserves to lose their jobs, it’s the folks sitting in the State Capitol. 

Talk to us about your thoughts regarding the university’s financial situation — feel free to email editorials or comments to [email protected]

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly labeled Sen. Dave Luechtefeld as a Democrat. 

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