Editorial: State’s issues will directly affect students

Life at NIU is going to change, and those changes will affect students the most.

NIU has planned an $11.6 million budget cut should Illinois’ income tax hikes come to an end. Simultaneously, an estimated 20 percent of NIU’s employees will retire at the end of this semester.

These issues will matter to students the most, seeing as their education will be in question. It’s time for students to take responsibility, step up and voice their concerns to NIU and their state representatives.

If NIU sees a budget cut, students can no longer view issues in the community as NIU’s problem. It will be our problem. The burdens Illinois is facing will affect every student.

The first — and easiest — step to make change is to contact the Student Association with your concerns about campus.

“You need to get involved and get engaged. That’s what it is, you know?” said SA President Jack Barry. “There is no such thing as, ‘It won’t make an impact.’ The only reason it won’t make an impact is because you as a student didn’t let it make an impact.”

Beyond the SA, students should contact NIU’s administration and DeKalb’s state representatives.

“Representative [Robert] Pritchard and I are certainly open to … mail and emails students send in,” said State Representative Tom Demmer. “I can tell you personally it does make a difference when we hear from constituents.”

Representatives’ jobs are in their names: representing. They won’t know what to do — more importantly, how to vote — unless their constituents directly tell them what their concerns are. Contacting state representatives is easy and only takes a few minutes to do.

At the very least, students should be well-read on the issues in Illinois. Even if they don’t take action, it’s important to know what’s going on.

“I encourage students to stay aware of the process as it goes,” Demmer said. “Understand it’s more than a one-day or one-week effort.”

Although complacency is hard to overcome, it’s easier when you realize your actions do make a difference. All changes begin with one person. It’s the responsibility of students to become a part of the changes they want to see in the community.

All it takes is one student taking a stand for what he or she thinks should happen. The rest will follow as long as other students realize they have a stake in the issues, too.