Column: We still have a long way to go


Daily Egyptian file photo

The year is 2025: Southern Illinois University is nationally recognized as being the best thing to ever happen to higher education in the United States of America.

Our little city down here, the once-precarious Carbondale, has become the place to be for artists, scientists, activists, musicians, organic farmers, engineers and everybody else leading the charge toward creating a just society.

Universities from around the world regularly send students and faculty to southern Illinois to learn just how we did it, how we became the model university, the greatest force of good this country has seen for over half a century.


We think back to a strange time when SIU’s future was all but certain. It was only eight years ago, but to us it was a totally different world in space and time — it all just seems so backwards.

If we can recall, let us reflect on that sad, sad state the university was in during the year of the first eclipse, that fateful cosmic event whose impact on the community was truly astronomical.

The year was 2017: we were scrambling for an identity, for a purpose, so the newly appointed Chancellor Carlo Montemagno urged the community to develop a vision for what SIU should look like by the year 2025.

He repeatedly called for shared-governance of university affairs, so the students ran with it and, with help from the faculty, forced the university in the direction they felt would best address the unprecedented challenges facing humanity.

It had become clear the American educational system was completely and utterly subordinate to the demands of capital, with colleges and universities existing for the sole purpose of streamlining the youthful masses into a doomed economy.

Those drafting SIU’s 2025 vision revolved it around the simple premise that in order to become a place of progress for individuals and the world at large, the university must immediately halt operations that were complacent in the exploitative practices we had all become numb to under late-capitalism.

As the revisioning began, it became clear that a sizable chunk of university matters would have to be re-thought.


The first move was an abrupt abandonment of all research into fossil fuels. Instead, the university took up intensive research into developing decentralized renewable energy, which very quickly granted the entire region energy independence (a move most other large universities adopted within a few years).

Instead of revolving its educational model on the whims of corporate America, SIU began to base its teachings on that which empowers the individual and the community. With the goal of regional and institutional autonomy on the horizon, the university began the bold process of redefining education in the 21st century.

The narrative that encouraged students to pick a major based on the needs and desires of the business world had proven itself outdated, and a major cause of anxiety for most of those who walked the university’s halls.

Instead, students were to pursue the education of their dreams and study whatever it was they thought about before they were told that they must work for a living.

Needless to say, the arts, humanities and the sciences flourished. In the absence of outside pressure and with utopia as the destination, the students and faculty of SIUC plunged into the unknown and attempted to build a new world in the shell of the old.

And what do you know? It worked.

Student Trustee Sam Beard can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at (618) 453-8418. His office is located in the Registered Student Organization Suite on the third floor of the Student Center and his office hours are Mondays/Wednesdays: 11:00 a.m. – 12:50 p.m., Thursdays: 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., or by appointment.