Senator brings issues to NIU

By Eric Krol

A state senator involved in a controversial bill visited NIU Monday, bringing with her many opinions on issues affecting the state today.

Sen. Judy Baar Topinka, R-North Riverside, met with various campus groups as part of a program initiated by Ken Beasley, NIU assistant for government relations.

Topinka was the sponsor of the state bill which forbids NIU and other state universities from kicking out Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs because they comply with federal laws prohibiting homosexuals.

Topinka said she considers the ROTC issue closed because it is a matter of national policy. She said she expressed concern about ROTC because it provides many scholarships, especially for minorities and women.

“It is precipitous to toss the baby out with the bath water,” she said.

On the subject of higher education, Topinka said she does not see an increase in state funding because of the tough financial times.

“I do foresee an increase in tuition,” she said.

Echoing a growing trend, Topinka also said education, as well as other areas, are going to have to look toward increased outside funding. “We’ve seen the last of the government being everything to all people,” she said.

With the holiday-buying season approaching, Topinka said she expressed hope for a turnaround. However, she also said the state still is in the grip of the recession, despite federal proclamations the recession is ending.

She cited the 4,000 jobs recently lost during the Midway Airlines closing as an example.

As for the spring legislative session, Topinka said universities and other state programs should be happy if there are no further funding cuts.

NIU President John La Tourette recently said the state should streamline the way it handles tuition money to provide universities with the money they collect more quickly.

“I think he has a point there,” Topinka said. However, she added that the state’s coffers essentially are closed.

“Right now you could ask for money but not get any,” she said.

Topinka also said the state could cut costs by stopping all of the mandates it puts on universities because some of them may be unnecessary.

She cited the asbestos removal as an example. “Asbestos is one of the biggest scams the state has ever promulgated,” she said.

Topinka, who graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, spoke with an NIU journalism class, members of the Women’s Studies Program and the staff of the Student Association.