U of I investigates ISA membership

By Lisa Ferro

Similar to NIU last semester, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is looking into its Illinois Student Association membership.

U of I’s student government set up a task force to investigate whether the ISA is fitting the needs of U of I.

The ISA is a student lobbying group in Springfield that tries to influence state representatives toward student interests. NIU has been in the ISA for more than two years and each student pays a $1 ISA fee every year for its services.

Mike Waldinger, chairman of U of I’s task force, said, “Because of the complaints lined up, it’s our duty to find out if that $1 is being used to the fullest potential.”

Waldinger said the task force met and came up with seven complaints about the ISA: confidentiality of board members and staff, no full-time staff representation on campus, general lobbying ineffectiveness, too much focus on internal problems, irresponsibility of board members, abusive powers, involvement of staff and board in campus politics and outside interference from outside board members.

The task force, which only had three weeks to complete the investigation, will have to finish their report by Oct. 16.

“I want this task force to be as much a proactive body as a reactive body,” Waldinger said.

The task force agreed to have a referendum brought up before the U of I student body, which will vote at the end of the month on whether they want to keep their ISA membership.

Among other things, the task force is looking into the options available for hiring an independent lobbyist to represent their campus and looking at other student governments to see how effective they are so they can find a model.

But if U of I decides to represent themselves with students, ISA Interim Legislative Director Susan Filion doubts that will work. “There is a great gap between a student and a professional,” Filion said.

She said students cannot learn in one semester what it took her 20 years to learn.

NIU Student Association President Preston Came, who serves as an ISA director representing NIU, said he thinks U of I is lashing out in retaliation because ISA Executive Director David Starrett was fired in August. U of I was one of two schools who supported keeping Starrett.

Since Starrett’s removal, the ISA has been going through a restructuring process. Came said he does not think it is a good time to question the ISA.

“Running an evaluation during the middle of restructuring seems counterproductive,” Came said.

Came said he will be helpful to U of I during their investigation of ISA.

“I’d hope everyone would move together on this,” he said.