SA rally failed to answer questions

By Kara Mercer

It was great to see my fellow NIU students, faculty and so many other groups at the Student Association rally, but the demonstration, though well organized, fell short of my expectations.

Groups like the Voluntary Action Center, Kishwaukee College and Safe Passage gathered to rally for an end to the state budget impasse Thursday in the Martin Luther King Jr. Commons. The rally was meant to coincide with the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation’s Annual Dinner and State of the County event, where Gov. Bruce Rauner spoke about the impasse.

It was very wholesome to see people from places like Elgin College, College of DuPage and Chicago State University care enough to travel to NIU to speak despite the 46-degree temperature, wind and slight rain; however, I expected to learn more about why there is a budget impasse and the steps I need to take in order to make my voice heard.

The speakers made great points on why Illinois needs a proper state budget, which was also very interesting to hear.

“Student success depends on a variety of supports and opportunities for learning,” said Faculty Senate President Greg Long. “NIU, like all public institutions, has been forced to make cuts to the student support. Fewer supports equal less success. Fewer supports leads to lower retention and subsequent tuition revenue.”

Those who spoke had reasons why the community and Illinois should want the budget passed, but no one offered any solutions or counter points. Both sides of the story need to be represented to offer an effective argument. The speakers seemed to forget to explain why there’s a budget impasse in the first place.

A few of those who spoke mentioned ways people at the rally could help, but that was not the focus of their speeches.

“We need to contact Elgie Sims,” said Rhonda Veronica Williams, former Board of Trustees student representative from Chicago State University. “We need to contact [Rep.] Art Turner [D-Chicago]. We need to let our legislators know that our universities will not go down without a fight.”

I continued to wonder what I could do as a student who receives the Monetary Award Program grant. The grant is imperative to the funding I receive to be able to go to NIU, but speakers only gave brief advice on how to make a difference.

“In conclusion, I encourage you to take this voice beyond today, to take your messages to Springfield, to call all the legislators and urge them for action,” said Rep. Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley). “Use the social media. Raise the voice of Northern, of Northern Illinois and of Illinois that we need change.”

I’m glad the rally included students like me, who are being affected by the budget impasse, but I would have liked to learn more about what Rauner is doing, rather than what he isn’t. I also would have liked to hear some proposed solutions to the budget impasse.

Instead of or in addition to a table where people can register to vote, there should have also been information on who to contact. The petition that was being passed around did not seem to make it to everyone, so it should have remained in one place so more people could sign it.

The rally was a good way to catch the attention of more students and community members, but lacked a direction those people could go to help achieve change.