Daily Egyptian

Turn your back on Rauner at graduation

By Editorial Board

As Saturday’s commencement ceremonies draw nearer, it is clear the student-led petition to get Gov. Bruce Rauner replaced as a commencement speaker will not produce its desired effect.

Students opposed the decision because of Rauner’s proposed budget cuts, which would slash $62 million from the SIU system’s budget.

The more than 2,700 online signees — students, alumni and others have signed the petition without considering two vital pieces of information:

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Rauner was asked in January to speak at commencement, one month before he proposed his fiscal year 2016 budget. Also, the governor is not being paid to speak at graduation, as some concerned students have claimed.  

The furor behind this petition is legitimate. Students have the right to appeal to the university about anything they disagree with. Without this vital tool, democracy could not function.

The university will not reject the governor. It would be a bad political move and disrespectful to an elected official the university works so closely with every year. Dislike his platforms or not, he is still the leader of this state.

Petition supporters should be educated on both sides and tolerant to the conservative voice, which is often muted in most university discourse. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and no one should automatically be shunned for it.

We as students need to step back and look at the big picture surrounding the governor’s decision to decrease funding for state universities. He is not the first person in Springfield to cut higher education; cuts have been made seven of the last 10 years.

The state’s budget has been in disarray for longer than many students have been alive. Every spring, patchwork fixes are put in place to make it to the next year. Unfortunately current college students are just some of those who must deal with it.

This petition is a great way to let the administration and Springfield know students do not agree with Rauner’s tactics. But a petition is as far as it should go.

Rumors of unruly protests, possible violence and detrimental activity that would distract from the actual graduation ceremony are concerning. Salukis should not use this opportunity to embarrass the university, graduates or families this ceremony is meant to celebrate.

Loud, raucous protests have no place at such an event. Protesting could and should occur, but with respect to everyone involved.

Simply turning your back while the governor speaks, or silence following his speech would reach volumes screaming protesters could not match.

Those methods would show the state what students believe in — higher education and the survival of SIU as it operates.

The newsroom’s initial reaction to hearing Rauner is a commencement speaker was shock and anger. We shared the sentiments of the petitioners.

However, in reality, administration is not to blame. President Randy Dunn and his staff are accommodating the proposed cuts as best they can. If there was no plan in place, SIU would be in shambles when the actual cuts are made.

When the Daily Egyptian editorial board set out to write this, we immediately wanted to side with the student body. But since the creation of the petition, it has been apparent that not all those who oppose Rauner as the speaker are familiar with the details or processes of decision making.

The numbers don’t lie either. Four percent of the total votes cast in this 2014 gubernatorial election were cast by people aged 25 and younger. In Jackson County, just less than 14,000 votes were cast, and Rauner won by a matter of 1,200 votes.

As a school of slightly more than 16,000 students, we could have made a difference in Jackson County. Though Salukis alone could not swing the entire race, those who did not want Rauner could have changed how the county voted.

We support students’ rights to petition, but perhaps the university would not be in this situation if those who disagreed took slightly more political initiative than signing an online petition.

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