Unity Through Diversity Week will show how much NIU is willing to foster education and become people who are educated, NIU President John LaTourette said at Sunday’s Student Association Senate meeting.
The awareness week, which began yesterday, will feature a long list of events in an effort to highlight the cultures of students, faculty and staff from other countries.
“The objective of the week is to celebrate the fact that we bring a very diverse group of students, faculty and staff together,” LaTourette said. “The ability to understand different points of view is a mark of education.
“People involved in actions that have brought negative attention to the university are those who are not educated—we need to help educate them.”
LaTourette said unity week is part of that plan and he would like to see the SA senators take a more active part in this plan.
“It’s very important for each of you (SA senators) to be concerned about this issue and institution. A university is a place where we need to work together,” he said.
LaTourette also addressed the senate on Gov. James Thompson’s budget cut to higher education which led to statewide tuition increases.
e said NIU is the most underfunded higher education institution in the state, according to dollar amount. “We’re $6 million underfunded while an institution 65 miles to the east is over $7 million overfunded.”
“It’s unfortunate that this year interrupts what was beginning to be a very good trend,” LaTourette said. The president was referring to NIU becoming an “institution of choice,” but having to turn away applicants because of funding problems.
The $150 tuition increase was “a last resort—leaving us with our nose just above surface,” LaTourette said.
e said the tuition increase was due to the failure on the part of the legislature and governor to recognize the needs of higher education in Illinois.
e said chances are 50-50 that higher education will get some relief when the Illinois state legislature meets for a special veto session Oct. 21 and 22, in which colleges and universities could receive a supplemental budget increase.
LaTourette said the opinions of some representatives are 180 degrees apart. While some believe a supplemental budget is possible in October, other representatives believe there will be no possibility of further funding for higher education until after the spring election primaries.
LaTourette said the Illinois income tax is one of the lowest of all states so there is a lot of inclination to provide more funding for higher education from that standpoint. He also said there were a lot of votes for the tax increase but the effort was lacking in leadership.
e said it would be a matter of leadership as well as student political action whether the Oct. 21 session would be “successful.”
LaTourette, in an attempt to encourage the senators to take political action, said, “You have a lot of ability to influence what happens in October. Don’t wait until Oct. 21 to carry out actions.”