politics

Jim Edgar on Paul Simon: Illinois’s Former Governor Visits SIU

Venues & Businesses
SIU Student Center


Who: Paul Simon Public Policy Institute
What: former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar (lecture)
Where:
When: 2017-05-04
Former Illinois governor Jim Edgar will reflect on twenty years of the Paul Simon Public Policy Inst
Jennifer "Jay" Bull
Video Comentary

Former Illinois governor Jim Edgar will reflect on twenty years of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute Thursday, May 4 at 6 p.m. in SIU’s Student Center Auditorium.

“Governor Edgar was the state’s chief executive at the time when the [Simon] Institute was founded, and he signed the documents that actually created the institute at SIU,” interim Simon Institute director Jak Tichenor told Nightlife. “So we thought it was appropriate and fitting that he be one of the folks that we invite back to discuss his thoughts on the twentieth anniversary of the institute, his relationship with Senator Simon, and [Senator Simon’s] overall approach to good-government issues.”

Edgar, a Republican, often worked with Democrat Paul Simon, giving him insights into the local hero and institute’s namesake.

“Governor Edgar, of course, is one of the most popular chief executives the state has had in recent memory,” Tichenor said. “He’s always been very interested in maintaining a good bipartisan dialogue [and] a constructive relationship with the folks across the aisle in the General Assembly. So I’m sure he’ll have a lot of things to say to the audience that will be very meaningful and will draw upon his many years of experience in Illinois politics and government.

“He began as an intern in the legislature, he was an intern in Springfield, and served as a state representative— then, of course, was later elected Secretary of State and then governor for two terms,” Tichenor continued. “He has a wealth of political experience and wisdom that he can draw from that I’m sure will be very interesting for our audience.”

Paul Simon’s lasting legacies include the relationships he made during his career. As the Simon Institute celebrates its twentieth anniversary, those relationships continue to attract important visitors to SIU. The 2017 spring and fall keynote speakers both have a history with Simon.

“In the fall we have an invitation to United States Sen. Richard Durbin for our fall keynote address on the twentieth anniversary of the Simon Institute,” Tichenor said. “Senator Durbin was a staff member for former Senator Simon— they go back a long way. Anyway, we decided to pick Governor Edgar and Senator Durbin for obvious reasons. They go back a long way with Paul Simon and have a very thorough understanding of his career and his place in the pantheon of Illinois politics. We’re very excited that we are going to have them here over the course of the year. We think it is a fitting tribute to Senator Simon’s memory and his ongoing legacy here through the Simon Institute.”

As a journalist, Tichenor has a special relationship with the former governor.

“I covered Governor Edgar for a long time when he was Secretary of State, and later covered his two terms in Springfield as governor, so I always enjoy talking to him, and I know he’s got some wonderful stories,” Tichenor said. “He’ll have a lot of good things to say. We’re really looking forward to it and I’m so glad that he was able to take some time out of what is still a very busy schedule to come down and see the folks here in Carbondale.”

For more information, visit <http://PaulSimonInstitute.org>.

who: Paul Simon Public Policy Institute

what: former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar (lecture)

where: Student Center Auditorium

when: Thursday, May 4

John Sides: A Washington Blogger on How Donald Trump Won

Venues & Businesses
SIU Student Center


Who: Paul Simon Public Policy Institute
What: John Sides’s Donald Trump: How Did He Win and What Does It Mean? (Morton-Kenney Public Affairs lecture)
Where:
When: 2017-04-12
John Sides— a blogger, author, and professor of political science at George Washington University— w
Jennifer “Jay” Bull
Video Comentary

John Sides— a blogger, author, and professor of political science at George Washington University— will speak Wednesday, April 12 at 7 p.m. in Student Center Ballroom B.

In addition to cofounding the political-science blog The Monkey Cage, Sides has also written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, Salon, Boston Review, and Bloomberg View. The title of his talk at SIU is Donald Trump: How Did He Win and What Does It Mean?

“First of all, he’s a very well-known and widely recognized political scientist, and being at G.W., George Washington University, he’s in the very center of that hotbed of Washington and federal politics,” the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute’s John Jackson told Nightlife. “He writes about the political scene constantly via the blog that he does, and he is a part of a group that are always, almost daily, read and quoted throughout the country, through the media and opinion leaders who keep up with what’s going on in Washington, often via their computer screen every day. It’s a rare opportunity for our students and for residents and citizens that are interested in politics in Southern Illinois to come out and hear a nationally recognized expert.”

Jackson thinks it will be a fun and informative lecture for people in the community.

“He’ll be interesting and entertaining, and he’ll have what’s happening now,” Jackson said. “G.W. campus is just straight up the street from the White House, so he’s in the perfect place to get all the information and to convey that information, and he does so virtually daily. And he’s a young, energetic, enthusiastic young man, too.”

The lecture is part of the Simon Institute’s Morton-Kenney Public Affairs Lecture Series.

“We are delighted to help present Doctor Sides’s lecture in collaboration with our friends and colleagues in the Department of Political Science,” Simon Institute director Jak Tichenor told Nightlife. “The Morton-Kenney Public Affairs Lecture Series is an important part of our longstanding relationship with Political Science started by former U.S. Senator Paul Simon, who founded the Institute in 1997.”

The lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, visit <http://PaulSimonInstitute.org>.

who: Paul Simon Public Policy Institute

what: John Sides’s Donald Trump: How Did He Win and What Does It Mean? (Morton-Kenney Public Affairs lecture)

where: Student Center Ballroom B

 

when: Wednesday, April 12

American Civil Liberties Union: A Benefit to Protect Our Rights


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Pictured: Josh Murphy of the Holy Vedas.
Jennifer “Jay” Bull
Video Comentary

Rock Against Fascism, a benefit for the American Civil Liberties Union, will be held Saturday, March 11 at the Hangar 9.

“Most importantly, this is a good time for a good cause,” organizer Howard Steeley told Nightlife. “The live music ranges from rock to folk to electronic to warmly but truly alternative.”

Acts will include Josh Murphy’s new band the Holy Vedas, ambient alternative group the Cave Futures, Jesa Dior, Diamond Soul, and Jenny and the Housewives.

In addition to great music, the event will boast a silent auction of work by local artists and goods and services from local merchants. Proceeds from the $5 cover charge and silent auction will benefit the ACLU, and Steeley said that anyone who comes is welcome to donate more at the door.

Those who attend will also get an opportunity to learn about the ACLU’s ongoing conflicts with the Trump administration.

“We will have speakers from the community talking about how the White House’s orders and actions affect us all directly,” Steeley said. “The ACLU is the front line against tyranny and fascism. I can’t count the lawsuits they’ve filed in the last month against the Trump administration, and justly so. From immigrants to LGBTQ [people] to Muslims to school children to people of color to the environment, we, as a nation, are being stripped of our civil rights.”

Indeed, when Trump’s ban on people travelling from seven Muslim-majority countries to the United States went into effect, the ACLU had lawyers in airports helping unjustly detained people. Courts eventually struck down the ban. On Monday, Trump issued a new executive order to restrict travel to the United States from six predominantly Muslim nations, but it failed to alleviate the ACLU’s concerns. The response of ACLU legal director David Cole: “President Trump, we’ll see you in court.”

“My hope is that if this event does anything, it inspires people to take action in their own way,” Steeley said. “There are many worthy organizations in need of funding, many people in need of help. Trump is doing something I’m sure he never thought he’d do. He is bringing people together. Bigly.”

For more information, search for the event on Facebook.

who: American Civil Liberties Union

what: Rock Against Fascism benefit w/ Holy Vedas / Cave Futures / Jesa Dior / Diamond Soul / Jenny and the Housewives

where: Hangar 9

when: Saturday, March 11

Frack Free Fest: Fighting an Environmental Hazard With a Party

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Fiddle Rick with the Big Dippers
Honey and Tar
Kelven

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Venues & Businesses
Alto Vineyards

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Who: Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment
What: Frack Free Fest w/ People Versus Hugh DeNeal / Hans Predator / Bad Taste / Teen Angst / Dead Pretty / Kelven / Honey and Tar / Fiddle Rick Johnson and the Bourbon Boys / Kindred Moon
Where:
When: 2016-08-28
Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment will hold the annual Frack Free Fest Sunday,
Jennifer “Jay” Bull
Video Comentary

Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment will hold the annual Frack Free Fest Sunday, August 28 at 1 p.m. at Alto Vineyards.

“We’re going to have some of the most awesome bands in Southern Illinois,” Brent Ritzel, an event organizer, told Nightlife, “and in between the bands there’s going to be a number of different speakers talking about the harms of fracking and different things we’re working on now to solve it— a variety of different perspectives like that. It’s going to be an awesome day.”

The Frack Free Fest is geared toward raising money to help stop fracking in Southern Illinois. Admission is by donation, and auctions and a raffle will take place. Event organizers also want people to come out and learn about the problems with fracking.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves pumping water and incredibly toxic chemicals into the ground to force natural gas out. The process pollutes groundwater, and gas that escapes capture pollutes the air. Earthquakes are another consequence of pumping fluid into the ground— and Southern Illinois sits on the New Madrid Fault Line, which has produced some of the biggest earthquakes known to have struck North America.

Proponents say fracking will bring jobs to Southern Illinois, a claim Ritzel dismissed. So much of the tourism in Southern Illinois comes from wineries and centers on the natural beauty of the region. Fracking and the pollution it causes, Ritzel said, will cost more long-term jobs than it will create. Irrigating a winery’s grapes with water polluted by fracking chemicals, for example, might not produce the best vintage.

“The problem with fracking is that is does create some short-term jobs that mainly people from other states are going to get, but it also eliminates local jobs in areas like tourism and agriculture, which is kind of our bread and butter in Southern Illinois,” Ritzel said. “If [fracking] does come here, we will be losing the long-term jobs that actually mean something to the long-term reality of our region, which is agriculture and tourism.”

Luckily, right now, the price of competing fossil fuels— particularly oil— has dropped to the point where the cost of fracking exceeds what a company can make from the gas it produces. This has given SAFE and other groups, including the Southern Illinois Rights Project, time to prepare for when the price of oil rebounds.

One way to combat fracking is to promote clean, viable alternatives, including wind and solar. Organizers and speakers will discuss renewables at the Frack Free Fest.

“We got all the answers, and that’s what we’ll be celebrating at the Frack Free Fest,” Ritzel said. “The more we engage in the solution, the more problems becomes less of a problem. I think that is a big part of what we are doing.”

The Frack Free Fest should be a fun way Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment to get more information out to people.

“That’s what the Frack Free Fest is all about,” Ritzel said. “It is to energize people and remind them that this fight is far from over. We are regathering the troops and making sure that people are really well-informed.”

Find out more at <http://www.DontFractureIllinois.net>.

who: Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment

what: Frack Free Fest w/ People Versus Hugh DeNeal / Hans Predator / Bad Taste / Teen Angst / Dead Pretty / Kelven / Honey and Tar / Fiddle Rick Johnson and the Bourbon Boys / Kindred Moon

where: Alto Vineyards and Winery

 

when: Sunday, August 28

Editorial— Killing Illinois’s Universities: How Bruce Rauner Can Get Away With Murder

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Editorial— Splash of Cold Water: Tell Rauner to Resume Work on the Super Splash Park


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Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2017 calls for a twenty percent reducti
Chris Wissmann
Video Comentary

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2017 calls for a twenty percent reduction in funding for higher education. As SIU university-system president Randy Dunn wrote in his March 9 System Connection column, Rauner’s budget effectively will rip $46.5 million away from the entire SIU system, $22.856 million of which will come out of the Carbondale campus. (Dunn has revised these figures from his previous System Connection, which this writer cited in the last issue of Nightlife.)

In response, Dunn released a vision of what SIU will look like should Rauner’s budget pass the General Assembly.

In February, Dunn wrote in his System Connection column that state universities were in triage mode due to the budget standoff between the governor and Illinois legislature. The resulting financial stress has caused other universities to amputate rather than try to save limbs, and now SIU is forced to join them.

Dunn’s latest System Connection envisions leaving dozens of positions unfilled, cutting three-hundred student jobs, laying off 180 employees (including faculty), and eliminating the use of state funding for important university programs, including WSIU, the University Museum, Touch of Nature, the School of Law, and SIU Press. Dunn won’t even spare athletics— men’s and women’s tennis will get the axe.

By now all of SIU’s employees have looked over the details and tried to calculate whether they are on the layoff list. Those who think they’re safe are dead wrong.

It’s important to realize that Dunn’s plan deals with Fiscal Year 2017. This, however, is still Fiscal Year 2016, for which Rauner, a Republican, continues to refuse to sign a budget or appropriation bill until the legislature first passes his Turnaround Agenda, which largely consists of emasculating Illinois’s unions. So right now SIU isn’t facing a twenty percent budget cut, but a one-hundred percent elimination of state funding. And when the Democrat-controlled General Assembly kills Rauner’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget, as the governor has so far strangled this fiscal year’s, SIU will suffer a second-annual one-hundred percent cut in state support.

In other words, Dunn has designed the 180 layoffs mentioned above, et al., to deal with a far rosier scenario than SIU currently battles.

On the other hand, Rauner’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget remains only a proposal. With intense political pressure and outright electoral changes, the General Assembly can force a much kinder budget down Rauner’s throat, and none of those layoffs or other cuts will materialize.

In the last issue of Nightlife, this writer discussed the extraordinary levels of political involvement required to overcome Rauner’s vetoes. In particular, they required SIU’s unions to flex their considerable, but where the budget stalemate is concerned, thus far apparently atrophied muscles, and to do so in the political arena. (Nobody should gloat over the beatdowns that some of Rauner’s pet candidates took in last week’s primary— electorally Illinois is far from out of the woods. Complacency is for the doomed.)

Instead of rehashing that suggestion here, however, readers might ponder why Rauner thinks he can get away with gutting higher education. A recent SIU Paul Simon Public Policy Institute poll of Illinois voters generated stunning responses that offer some insights.

Only twenty-seven percent of poll respondents said they had lost jobs or that their jobs had been threatened by the state-budget impasse. Only ten percent said their local economies were hurt by that standoff. Only fifteen percent said they had been affected by cuts to higher education or cuts to the Monetary Award Program for low-income college students.

While eighty-four percent of Illinois voters say the state is moving in the wrong direction, only fifty percent disapprove of Rauner’s job performance. Somehow, the poll found forty-one percent who approve of Rauner. (Interestingly, Rauner’s approval and disapproval ratings both grew from last year as undecided voters came off on both sides of the fence.) In Southern Illinois, Rauner polled at only forty-nine percent disapproval and a stunningly high, clueless forty-three percent approval.

Those poll numbers indicate that a whopping number of Illinois voters live in complete ignorance about what state funds pay for and the impact of state-government activity on their jobs and daily lives, as well as the specifics of the budget standoff. The Simon poll further shows a public largely unaware of the damage caused by a governor who has held the budget hostage while trying to get the General Assembly to crush Illinois unions as ransom.

 

Clearly, the state’s university system— from civil servants and laborers to administrators and teachers— needs to do a far better job of educating not just its students but the voting public about what universities do, and the essential, beneficial services they and state government in general provide to all of Illinois’s citizens. (And that’s about to get far more difficult, since under Rauner’s proposed budget Dunn will need to cut the university’s marketing efforts.) Until they do so, the number of voters who care about the decapitation of higher education that Rauner has proposed will remain politically insignificant to him, and the governor will wield his scythe with impunity.

Editorial: Wake up, SIU! Take Action in the State Budget War

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Editorial: Brad Cole’s Solution for State-university Funding
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Editorial: Enrollment, Enrollment, Enrollment: Down, Down, Down
Editorial: Glenn Poshard’s Army: Will He Mobilize SIU? Will He?
Editorial: Rules for Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy
Editorial: Shame on Illinois Democrats
Editorial: SIU Enrollment Goes Down Again
Editorial: SIU Enrollment Goes Down Again, Hard; Freshman Enrollment May Not Be at a Twenty-year High
Editorial: SIU’s Low, Low College Scorecard Grade Point Average and A Shift in the Balance of Power at SIU?
Editorial: SOS (Save Our Strip): Message Received?
Editorial: Taxes, Jobs, and Leadership: Three Connected Southern Illinois Conundrums
Editorial: Tell the General Assembly to Let Voters Elect SIU’s Trustees
Editorial: The Phantom Menace— The Real Threat SIU Faces
Editorial: Three Trains Running, But for How Long?
Editorial: To Rebuild Enrollment, Make SIU Fun Again
Editorial: Towed Away
Editorial: Why the Decision to Shop Locally Should Be More Than Just a Good Intention
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Editorial— F.B.I. Tries to Nab Santa’s List; PATRIOT Act Invoked to Find Terrorist Suspects
Editorial— Police Academy: Learning to Cope with Video
Editorial— Poshard and Cheng: Pathetic Excuses for SIU’s Enrollment Death Spiral
Editorial— Rauner on Campus: The Proper Reaction
Editorial— S.O.S.: Save Our Strip (And How We Got in This Terrible Mess)
Editorial— SIU Football: Beat Liberty or Leave Town
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Editorial— Splash of Cold Water: Tell Rauner to Resume Work on the Super Splash Park


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On February 4, this writer discussed the importance of improving the quality of life for SIU student
Chris Wissmann
Video Comentary

On February 4, this writer discussed the importance of improving the quality of life for SIU students in order to rebuild the university’s plunging enrollment. SIU once showed a strong commitment to bringing in major concerts and touring productions. During the last few years, however, the university has largely abdicated its role as the cultural engine for Southern Illinois, at least as mass numbers of students would demonstrate how they might define desirable entertainment— events large enough that they would fill the SIU Arena or even Shryock Auditorium.

Last week, this writer also debunked a few reasons that SIU administrators might give for no longer providing students with large-scale entertainment events, but glossed over the role of state funding. That, however, is a major issue that transcends support for the arts at SIU, and requires the separate treatment that follows.

Financial Holes and Political Conflicts

Illinois has massive debt primarily caused by decades of underfunding pensions that the state constitution mandates it pay. To right the ship without crippling state operations— road construction and repairs, public safety and corrections, education, natural resources, social services— will require significant tax increases.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, already vetoed most of the first budget that came his way— the notable exception was for primary-school funding— and it was not even close to balanced. The state is now some eight months into the fiscal year without having given many of its departments— notably higher education and human services— the authority to spend the money necessary to carry out their functions. And, frankly, it doesn’t have the money to spend in the first place— this fiscal year, state comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger estimates that Illinois has already racked up an additional $6.2 billion in debt and counting.

Rauner isn’t necessarily opposed to signing a budget or even a tax increase into law, but he has stated that he will veto any bills dealing with spending or revenue unless the General Assembly first passes his so-called Turnaround Agenda, which largely consists of crippling union rights in Illinois.

With a few exceptions, legislators from both parties are refusing to step up, despite the damage wrought in their own districts by their inaction.

Republicans are standing firm in Rauner’s pocket because of the billionaire governor’s promise/threat of campaign cash. Last May alone, he doled out $400,000 to compliant legislators. Even a renegade Democrat who has sided with Rauner, representative Ken Dunkin, just received a $500,000 contribution, believed to be the largest donation ever given for an Illinois primary— and that came from the Illinois Opportunity Project, a Republican political action committee. Earlier Dunkin benefitted from $240,000 in various forms of indirect support from IllinoisGO, a Super PAC rumored to serve as one of the governor’s fronts. Meanwhile, in what is widely believed to be retaliation by Rauner, Republican senator Sam McCann, who voted to strip some of the governor’s authority to conduct union negotiations, is facing a primary opponent who’s getting $325,000 in indirect support from Liberty Principles, a G.O.P. PAC.

Democrats have a numerical supermajority in the General Assembly and could override Rauner’s veto, but are scared to pass a responsible budget, because that will require unpopular tax increases in an election year with potentially well-funded Republican opposition ready to pounce on them.

University Suffering

Illinois’s budget impasse has caused SIU and everything else that’s funded by the state to circle the budgetary wagons. The issue is much larger than merely paying for concerts and lectures and festivals, of course— it involves student financial aid (especially Monetary Assistance Grants), general operating funds for the university (including professor and staff salaries), equipment purchases and building repairs.... Everything.

Luckily, SIU appears in good enough shape to keep open, for the time being anyway. The president of Eastern Illinois University, on the other hand, has openly wondered if that school has enough money to operate through the spring semester. He just sent out layoff notices to two-hundred civil-service employees to help keep his ship financially afloat. Unpaid furlough days are coming for others at EIU, and its president is talking about shutting down summer school.

EIU isn’t alone among major state schools that might need to close before the end of the fiscal year. Similar rumblings have come from Northern Illinois University. Chicago State has announced that it can’t afford to pay its employees after March 1 and that layoffs are coming soon. Western Illinois University laid off thirty professors.

John A. Logan College is in financial crisis despite a 25.9 percent increase in enrollment, totaling 878 more students than in fall 2015 (and it’s extremely unusual for enrollment to grow between fall and spring semesters). It may need to cut as much as $7 million from its $38 million budget, according to a WSIL report. Almost certainly, that will result in layoffs at Logan.

Those who can’t see similar scenarios quickly overtaking SIU are living in a delusional state that presents an immediate danger to themselves and others. Complacency is no longer an option for those who wish to keep their university jobs, or whose livelihoods rely on a healthy university.

Universal Suffering

The consequences of the budget standoff extend far beyond the state-university system. Police have had unfunded training sessions cancelled at a time when the public is demanding changes in the way law enforcement responds to minority communities and people with special needs, including the mentally ill. State museums, like the one in Whittington, have shut down, as have outdoor facilities like the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta. Teen REACH, Autism Project services, and senior-citizen Meals on Wheels programs have closed throughout Illinois, while many other social-service organizations are on their last legs.

A Serious Casualty: SIU Arts and Entertainment

The stakes for the future of Illinois are so extraordinarily high that musing about arts funding at SIU may seem shallow.

But as a publication that focuses on music and arts, it perhaps behooves Nightlife to highlight how the budget war is damaging the culture and therefore the economy of SIU and Carbondale.

To its credit, the university has found funding for some annual events, but whether others take place this spring and summer will depend on the General Assembly and the governor either coming to an agreement or one of them prevailing over the other. Meanwhile, we can all kiss goodbye major special events at the SIU Arena or Shryock Auditorium.

Imagine a summer semester without the Sunset Concerts.

Such concerns rise above the level of mere luxury when looking at the single biggest long-term crisis facing SIU— an almost twenty-five-year enrollment collapse. From its height of 21,999 in 1991, fall enrollment at SIU fell to 15,378 in 2015— a loss of more than thirty percent of the student body. The last time the university attracted so few students was in 1964, before SIU became Illinois’s cheapest and easiest way for young men to secure a deferment from the Vietnam War draft. And last week SIU announced that it suffered the loss of another 878 students compared to spring 2015.

Without a massive influx of highly qualified students, SIU will continue to lose the clout it needs to maintain funding for core educational missions, and it will fail to operate as the economic and cultural engine for Southern Illinois. Unless the SIU administration can successfully implement an Enrollment Turnaround Agenda, the university will collapse upon itself like a black hole, and suck Carbondale into the resulting abyss.

Investments that make SIU and Carbondale more exciting and vibrant to prospective students are essential to restoring the student body to anywhere near 1991 levels. Resurgent enrollment, in turn, will make sure that the university can justify to the General Assembly and governor fiscal appropriations necessary to pay the almost seven-thousand full-time equivalent personnel SIU employs— from carpenters and residence-hall cooks to professors and administrators, from librarians and computer technicians to groundskeepers and electricians.

Fixing a Hole

Those who feel strongly about the role of cultural and arts funding at SIU— or the budget war’s impact on the many other aspects of their lives— would do well to make sure that their elected officials hear demands that the General Assembly pass a budget.

Southern Illinois legislators include:

  • Sen. David S. Luechtefeld: (618) 243-9014
  • Rep. Terri Bryant: (618) 684-1100
  • Rep. Jerry F. Costello II: (618) 282-7284
  • Sen. Gary Forby: (618) 439-2504
  • Rep. John E. Bradley: (618) 997-9697
  • Rep. Brandon W. Phelps: (618) 253-4189

Visit <http://VoteSmart.org> to see who represents you.

Luechtefeld, incidentally, is preparing to retire, and Democrat Sheila Simon is well-positioned to succeed him. Bryant, however, is a vulnerable Republican whose voting record places her solidly behind Rauner and against the interests of her own district. As recently as January 28, she voted against a bill that would have funded university-student MAP grants and other higher-ed programs.

Bryant needs to know that the price of crossing Rauner is not political suicide— that instead, Bryant’s district will stand behind her against the onslaught that the governor will unleash against her and her constituents. That means that if Bryant supports a politically realistic budget or appropriations bill that Rauner opposes, even died-in-the-wool Democrats (including this writer) must reward her with their votes in November. And should she stay in the governor’s pocket, the district’s most loyal Republicans must cast their ballots for her opponent, Marsha Griffin.

Moreover, political campaign contributions must flow according to whether Bryant moves to end the stalemate. Few alarm bells will sound louder in Bryant’s ears than when people who made significant donations to her campaign two years ago start contributing to Griffin.

The other legislators listed above are Democrats who already are on board. They, however, need to be able to tell their party leadership, which has bottled up numerous appropriations bills in committees, about the pressure they’re getting from their constituents.

After that, Nightlife readers must make sure they are registered to vote— the November 8 election is coming up fast, and the March 15 primary even more quickly— and then they need to hold those officials and the candidates running against them accountable for their (in)actions.

Editorial— SIU’s 2015 College Score Card

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Editorial: A Case for Neighborhood Business Zoning in Carbondale
Editorial: A Eulogy for Glenn Poshard
Editorial: A Great Trustees Decision— But a High Cost to the Low Price?
Editorial: Blame SIU Enrollment for Carbondale’s Property Tax Increases
Editorial: Concealed Carry: Safeguards Illinois Must Adopt
Editorial: Don Monty— Call the Question
Editorial: Endless Fall(ing) Enrollment
Editorial: Enrollment, Enrollment, Enrollment: Down, Down, Down
Editorial: Glenn Poshard’s Army: Will He Mobilize SIU? Will He?
Editorial: Shame on Illinois Democrats
Editorial: SIU Enrollment Goes Down Again
Editorial: SIU Enrollment Goes Down Again, Hard; Freshman Enrollment May Not Be at a Twenty-year High
Editorial: SIU’s Low, Low College Scorecard Grade Point Average and A Shift in the Balance of Power at SIU?
Editorial: SOS (Save Our Strip): Message Received?
Editorial: Taxes, Jobs, and Leadership: Three Connected Southern Illinois Conundrums
Editorial: Tell the General Assembly to Let Voters Elect SIU’s Trustees
Editorial: The Phantom Menace— The Real Threat SIU Faces
Editorial: Three Trains Running, But for How Long?
Editorial: Towed Away
Editorial: Why the Decision to Shop Locally Should Be More Than Just a Good Intention
Editorial— Enrollment: Knocked Down, Can Dunn Get It Back Up?
Editorial— Police Academy: Learning to Cope with Video
Editorial— Poshard and Cheng: Pathetic Excuses for SIU’s Enrollment Death Spiral
Editorial— Rauner on Campus: The Proper Reaction
Editorial— S.O.S.: Save Our Strip (And How We Got in This Terrible Mess)
Editorial— SIU Football: Beat Liberty or Leave Town
Editorial— Splash of Cold Water: Tell Rauner to Resume Work on the Super Splash Park


Who:
What:
Where:
When:
On September 12, the Obama White House unveiled a revised College Score Card at <https://CollegeScor
Chris Wissmann
Video Comentary

On September 12, the Obama White House unveiled a revised College Score Card at <https://CollegeScoreCard.ed.gov>. Some of the circumstances involving its creation were controversial, but readers can explore those issues at their leisure— they’re not germane to the topic at hand, which is how SIU fared compared to other state and regional universities.

Several numbers jump out, and unsurprisingly, the data make easily drawn and indisputable conclusions about where the home team could stand significant improvements.

First, with an average annual cost of $16,265, SIU is way too expensive, and the rewards of its degrees are increasingly difficult to justify. The average annual price of attending regional competitors Murray State and Southeast Missouri is significantly less, at $9,600 and $12,012, respectively. Murray and SEMO graduates, after ten years, command smaller paychecks than SIU’s, but rare is the undergrad who can see so far into the future— at that age I and most of my peers couldn’t think beyond the upcoming weekend’s festivities (which in turn led to the founding of Nightlife).

Meanwhile, due to the amount of scholarships available at the state’s flagship school, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign costs only $2,533 per year more to attend, on average, than SIU, and students there graduate with an average of $1,550 less in student debt— but ten years after graduation they are likely to earn an average of $15,100 a year more than SIU alumni. Cost and debt are even lower at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and although alumni earning power is a little less than at the flagship school, it’s still $10,000 a year more one decade after graduation than those with SIU degrees.

SIU’s graduation rate is only one point greater than the national average, and it’s the second-lowest among major state and regional universities. The percentage of first-year students who return for a second year is also the second-lowest. Only Chicago State fared worse in both categories.

Students don’t make it through college for any number of reasons. They flunk out because they’re unqualified. They discover they can’t afford it. They may feel poorly treated by university employees. They may feel they aren’t learning anything useful in their programs and see better educational opportunities elsewhere. Low family income can sabotage educational attainment regardless of a student’s intelligence, high-school rankings, and test scores. A lot of students who leave SIU probably fit into some combination of the above categories.

Several bottom lines emerge.

The administration of Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner will never increase state allocations to SIU (or higher education in general), and the next gubernatorial election is three long years hence. Instead of raising revenue through increased tuition or fees, SIU instead must drastically reduce its costs, or SIU will price itself further out of the market, causing continued, sharp enrollment declines alongside revenue from tuition and fees.

If state budget cuts hit the Monetary Award Program hard, SIU could lose almost $15 million, and the three- to four-thousand students the grant subsidizes with it. SIU, then, needs to recruit many more students from higher-income families. It can— and must— do this without sacrificing its traditional commitment to blue-collar, minority, and low-income students.

Educational support for low-income students might not consume vast resources as once believed. The University of Texas at Austin has dramatically improved grades and graduation rates among low-income students with an extremely short, low-cost intervention called the U.T. Mindset. SIU ought to immediately copy it.

To get more highly qualified students, Nightlife offered a suggestion the other week that bears repeating: This fall the University of Illinois enrolled only 7,565 freshmen out of some 34,200 applicants. That’s 26,635 students SIU should have recruited, if only as their safety school. Capturing only three percent of those applicants would have reversed SIU’s enrollment decline and probably would have raised the school’s graduation and retention rate to boot. SIU might focus effective recruitment efforts toward Illinois high-school students that the U of I would probably admit but might not have the room to enroll— those with ACT scores in the range of twenty-six to twenty-nine, for example.

SIU needs to conduct surveys and focus groups to determine why its shrinking student body does decide to come here, and if there’s a common thread that can be used to recruit others. Beyond that, administrators, professors, and staff need existing students to hold up a mirror to them. Enrollment declines are only a symptom of the problems SIU faces, which include attitude, competence, and quality.

If the university served students better, it would not have such a poor graduation rate or such a high rate of first-year students who don’t return for a second go-round. It would not have lost twenty-five percent of its enrollment in twenty-four years, and enrollment would not have fallen to the lowest level since the Beatles first topped the charts.

That must change, by any means necessary, and yesterday. Research institution be damned, the purpose of SIU is to serve students, period. Every employee at SIU, from tenured professors to student janitors, needs to successfully complete comprehensive customer-service training courses that hammer home this prime directive. Anyone who’s not rowing the boat in that direction or bailing it out needs to swim off on their own, and if they seem content to passively sit aboard, hopefully system president Randy Dunn won’t hesitate to toss the deadweight over the side.

 

SIU’s College Score Card grades paint a grim picture of the university, especially when compared to other schools. If viewed honestly, however, they also provide clarion directives for the significant improvements SIU must make. The questions are the same ones to ask of any college student who fails several classes, and that’s whether SIU received the message, is willing to change, and is able to recover in sufficient enough fashion before it flunks out.

Parody— Mafia to State: Return the Numbers Racket to Us; Lotto Winners Hire Reputed Mob Leg-breaker to Collect

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Editorial: A Great Trustees Decision— But a High Cost to the Low Price?
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Editorial: Don Monty— Call the Question
Editorial: Endless Fall(ing) Enrollment
Editorial: Enrollment, Enrollment, Enrollment: Down, Down, Down
Editorial: Glenn Poshard’s Army: Will He Mobilize SIU? Will He?
Editorial: Shame on Illinois Democrats
Editorial: SIU Enrollment Goes Down Again
Editorial: SIU Enrollment Goes Down Again, Hard; Freshman Enrollment May Not Be at a Twenty-year High
Editorial: SIU’s Low, Low College Scorecard Grade Point Average and A Shift in the Balance of Power at SIU?
Editorial: SOS (Save Our Strip): Message Received?
Editorial: Taxes, Jobs, and Leadership: Three Connected Southern Illinois Conundrums
Editorial: Tell the General Assembly to Let Voters Elect SIU’s Trustees
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Editorial— Police Academy: Learning to Cope with Video
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Editorial— Rauner on Campus: The Proper Reaction
Editorial— S.O.S.: Save Our Strip (And How We Got in This Terrible Mess)
Editorial— SIU Football: Beat Liberty or Leave Town
Editorial— Splash of Cold Water: Tell Rauner to Resume Work on the Super Splash Park


Who:
What:
Where:
When:
(Springfield, Illinois): With news that Illinois government is withholding payments to lottery winne
Chris Wissmann
Video Comentary

(Nightlife Springfield Bureau): With news that Illinois government is withholding payments to lottery winners because of the budget impasse in Springfield, mafia bosses in Chicago are calling on the state to return the numbers racket to them.

“When we ran the game, it was honest,” longtime racketeer Luigi “The Book” Vella said. “You paid us, you won, we paid you. It was that simple.

“We never thought to stiff a winner,” Vella added. Then he paused, as if weighing whether the state had come up with a better con than the mob. The moment passed, and he noted: “Let me tell you what woulda happened if we done that— a bomb under our car, an ‘electrical malfunction’ in our house. Not to mention that a rival book would have taken over our action. There was real recourse for anyone who felt cheated. Not so much when the state runs the numbers.”

Speaking of which, Tom and Melissa Johnson of Olney, Illinois, say they and a group of other lottery winners have hired accused— but twice acquitted by juries that a Chicago Sun-Times reporter described as “nervous”— mafia leg-breaker Toothless Tony Russo of Cicero to collect their winnings.

“Tony has all of his natural teeth,” Mr. Johnson, a kindergarten teacher at a local Baptist grade school, said at a press conference. “He’s just demonstrated an almost-dental ability to remove them from other people’s jaws. It’s all the more remarkable because he doesn’t use anesthesia.”

“We don’t accept IOUs in my business,” Russo told reporters. “The vig on nonpayments is at least twenty, thirty percent, and usually a broke limb. You know,” he added, tapping his thigh with a pair of pliers, “if you let people get away with this, then nobody pays nobody what nobody owes. That’s no way to conduct a civil society.”

In a separate interview, Vella agreed with Russo. “We didn’t run nothing perfect,” Vella said. “But the families who use ta ran things had a lot more honor than these politicians. We respected the numbers racket.”

Vella, however, saw another way for lottery winners to collect.

“We use ta buy pols like cheap cologne, and right in the open,” Vella said. “Now you gotta sneak around and launder everything through political-action committees and the like. How you supposed to get things done efficient-like with all that red tape?

“But still, you put some love in their hands, and pols will still make money rain,” Vella said. “A new-fashion bribe might draw aces.”

Gov. Bruce Rauner and Comptroller Leslie Munger did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Their whereabouts are currently unknown. Spokesmen for both say they’re conducting “legitimate business.”

 

(satire by Chris Wissmann, with help from Bryan Miller)

Editorial— Enrollment: Knocked Down, Can Dunn Get It Back Up?

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Editorial: A Great Trustees Decision— But a High Cost to the Low Price?
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Editorial: Concealed Carry: Safeguards Illinois Must Adopt
Editorial: Don Monty— Call the Question
Editorial: Endless Fall(ing) Enrollment
Editorial: Enrollment, Enrollment, Enrollment: Down, Down, Down
Editorial: Glenn Poshard’s Army: Will He Mobilize SIU? Will He?
Editorial: Shame on Illinois Democrats
Editorial: SIU Enrollment Goes Down Again
Editorial: SIU Enrollment Goes Down Again, Hard; Freshman Enrollment May Not Be at a Twenty-year High
Editorial: SIU’s Low, Low College Scorecard Grade Point Average and A Shift in the Balance of Power at SIU?
Editorial: SOS (Save Our Strip): Message Received?
Editorial: Taxes, Jobs, and Leadership: Three Connected Southern Illinois Conundrums
Editorial: Tell the General Assembly to Let Voters Elect SIU’s Trustees
Editorial: The Phantom Menace— The Real Threat SIU Faces
Editorial: Three Trains Running, But for How Long?
Editorial: Towed Away
Editorial: Why the Decision to Shop Locally Should Be More Than Just a Good Intention
Editorial— Police Academy: Learning to Cope with Video
Editorial— Poshard and Cheng: Pathetic Excuses for SIU’s Enrollment Death Spiral
Editorial— Rauner on Campus: The Proper Reaction
Editorial— S.O.S.: Save Our Strip (And How We Got in This Terrible Mess)
Editorial— Splash of Cold Water: Tell Rauner to Resume Work on the Super Splash Park


Who:
What:
Where:
When:
Readers familiar with Nightlife’s regular review of SIU enrollment figures might express some surpri
Chris Wissmann
Video Comentary

Readers familiar with Nightlife’s regular review of SIU enrollment figures might express some surprise at the understanding tone of the following analysis.

Yes, apparently enrollment has fallen to its lowest level since 1964. Back then, 14,291 students attended SIU. With the Vietnam War heating up and a lot of young men looking for inexpensive draft deferments, enrollment jumped to 17,932 the next year.

This fall, 17,292 students came to SIU, down from 17,989 last autumn.

Damning as those numbers are, however, no fair reading can lead anyone to blame the current administration. But at issue isn’t the present, it’s the future, and beyond the raw enrollment figures came a truly ominous statement that before too long might lead to justifiable calls for regime change.

First, however, it’s worth noting the context in which SIU is struggling with student recruitment.

For those who have failed to notice, the state’s illustrious governor, Bruce Rauner, is waging a scorched-earth campaign against the Democrat-controlled legislature. Rauner has held up approval of the budget for several months now in order to leverage legislative authorization for a string of antiunion measures. This has ground a ton of state-funded activities to a halt. Locally, the Jackson County Health Department has cut hours of operation, the Carbondale Park District was forced to cease construction of the Super Splash Park, and lord knows how many social-service organizations are on the verge of shutting down.

More directly affecting SIU, almost a month into the semester, state funding for Monetary Award Program grants remains uncertain.

Rauner has proposed huge cuts to Amtrak funding, which could eliminate one or more daily trains to and from Chicago. One need not get too generous in defining what constitutes the Chicago area to see that’s from where a lot of SIU’s students hail. A solid plurality come from Cook County alone.

With a lot of low-income students and many whose families live far away— and at least some who fall into both categories— staying at home and going to junior colleges may have seemed a far safer decision than heading south with shaky prospects for financial aid or transportation to attend a more expensive university.

It’s not realistic that Randy Dunn would overcome those and many other challenges as he embarks on only his second year as university-system president.

The public, however, cannot accept surrender. And those who derive their living by serving students, either as university employees or off-campus workers, must fear the resigned words Dunn used to describe current enrollment figures: “The new normal.”

Illinois State, the University of Illinois Chicago, and SIU’s Edwardsville campus all experienced enrollment increases this semester, the latter two exceeding record levels. A spokesperson for Governor’s State, meanwhile, anticipated “good news” with regard to an announcement about that school’s enrollment expected later this week.

The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, meanwhile, grew significantly despite facing what the Chicago Tribune labeled “a summer of scandals” in which the chancellor and provost resigned, the former with a controversial golden parachute, for circumventing the Freedom of Information Act; the football coach was fired; women basketball players sued, alleging race discrimination; and a soccer player sued, claiming the school failed to properly deal with her concussions. SIU has its problems, but they’re not nearly that bad, and they don’t ever garner such nonstop coverage in Chicago media.

Other schools, simply put, have found ways to grow in the face of the state’s political warfare, or their own rank incompetence— and one of them operates under the SIU system, for crying out loud.

One potential route among many that SIU might take to rebuild enrollment: The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign enrolled 7,565 freshmen out of some 34,200 who applied. Certainly, the University of Illinois was the safety school for a percentage of the 26,635 applicants who didn’t arrive at the Urbana-Champaign campus, and they went elsewhere, while some others weren’t qualified for admission. But SIU needs to be the second choice among the rest— those who qualified for the U of I but were not admitted. Had SIU only captured three percent of those 26,635 U of I applicants, enrollment would have risen this year. Three percent. From that school alone. By attending SIU, those students would have received a less-prestigious but not necessarily lower-quality education, and possibly graduate with a smaller amount of student debt. Did anyone make that pitch to them?

 

If in this fall semester’s pre-1965 enrollment levels all Dunn and company can see is a new normal, then he and his administration may lack the desire and imagination to restore SIU into what it deserves and the rest of us require. Hopefully, Dunn actually wants to do the job, and can. But if that’s not the case, Dunn will soon lose community support, and the Board of Trustees should follow suit.

Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates How Do Two Similar Baltimore Kids Lead Such Different Lives?

Venues & Businesses
SIU Student Center


Who: Student Programming Council / Distinguished Speaker Series
What: Wes Moore’s The Other Wes Moore One Name, Two Fates (author lecture)
Where:
When: 2015-09-23
Journalist and Army veteran Wes Moore will speak Wednesday, September 23 at 7:30 p.m. in the Student
Jennifer “Jay” Bull
Video Comentary

Journalist and Army veteran Wes Moore will speak Wednesday, September 23 at 7:30 p.m. in the Student Center Ballrooms as part of the SIU Distinguished Speakers Series.

“In researching candidates for any speaking engagement on campus, the goal is to find someone who is thought-provoking and who will engage and educate the university and the community,” SIU spokesperson Thomas Woolf told Nightlife. “Students from the Student Programming Council researched candidates and felt that Wes Moore would be an exceptional choice for the Distinguished Speaker, as they felt he would connect with our students and the community at large.... His life experiences— from growing up in a tough neighborhood to becoming a Rhodes scholar— and his accomplishments as an author and an entrepreneur suggested that he is the change-agent we wanted at SIU.”

The insight that Moore shows in his first book, The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, is one to which audiences can relate.

“Moore talks about how it’s hard to distinguish between second chances and last chances,” Woolf said. “We hope the audience walks away knowing how to make the most of their second chances when life grants that opportunity, but continue to make positive life choices that will lead to each individual’s success.”

The Other Wes Moore, also the title of his lecture, explores the divergent path of two children named Wes Moore. Both grew up in Baltimore without their fathers, but adulthood brought two very different lives. One served in the Eighty-second Airborne Division, became a Rhodes Scholar, and was a White House Fellow who served former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The other Wes Moore is in prison for life without parole after an armed robbery led to the murder of a police officer.

Moore read about his counterpart in a newspaper. This prompted him to seek out the other Wes Moore in prison to find how two people with so much in common could walk two vastly different paths. After his initial letter to the other Wes Moore, the two built a relationship through correspondence and prison visits. By learning about the other Wes Moore and looking at his own life, Moore explores the hardships that both faced as their lives went in different directions.

“The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine,” Moore said in a video interview on Amazon. “The tragedy is that my story could have been his. Had it not been for those folks that helped me understand that, had it not been for those people who helped usher me into manhood and the way that they did, things could have been very different.”

The book also looks at the reasons the two boys took divergent paths as they grew into adulthood. The book even has a detailed resource guide to help others.

“I didn’t want it to just be a book that people read, but I wanted it to be a larger call to action,” Moore said. “The biggest gap that we have in our society isn’t necessarily the education gap, or the technology gap, but it’s the expectation gap. How do we help people think differently about their lives and how do we think differently about the lives of others? That is the key hurdle that we got to get over.”

Moore is not just calling people to action. He founded BridgeEdU, a program that helps student succeed in college by giving them the opportunity to earn transferrable course credits with a focus on the courses needed for most college degrees, including writing, communications, and math. Moore has also founded an organization called STAND! that works with Baltimore youth caught in the criminal-justice system. He is host of the television show Beyond Belief on the Oprah Winfrey Network, and is the host and executive producer of the PBS show Coming Back with Wes Moore, which focuses on returning veterans.

“I look forward to talking at Southern Illinois University Carbondale about how our personal journeys can lead us to what we are most passionate about,” Moore said in an SIU press release. “Our most fulfilling work happens when we serve others, at the intersection between our gifts and our troubled world. That is where we find the work that lasts.”

This lecture, cosponsored by the Office of the Chancellor, the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, the SIU Foundation, the Student Center, and the Student Programming Council, is free and open to the public.

For more information, visit <http://TheOtherWesMoore.com>.

who: Student Programming Council / Distinguished Speaker Series

what: Wes Moore’s The Other Wes Moore One Name, Two Fates (author lecture)

where: Student Center Ballrooms

 

when: Wednesday, September 23

Jan Thompson’s Never the Same: An SIU Filmmaker and Allstar Cast Honor War’s Silent Survivors


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This August, ceremonies around the world marked the seventieth anniversary of the official surrender
Jeff Hale
Video Comentary

This August, ceremonies around the world marked the seventieth anniversary of the official surrender of the Empire of Japan to the Allied Forces, which brought to an end one of the bloodiest global conflicts in the annals of recorded history. In the seven decades that have passed since the signing of that treaty on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri in the late summer of 1945, an endless plethora of books, films, miniseries, documentaries, and even television series have told the story of what it was like to live through the horror that was World War II.

Yet with all of the extensive documentation on page, screen, and television, there are still stories of the conflict that have yet to be told. With surviving World War II veterans dying at the rate of more than one-thousand per day worldwide, many stories are in danger of disappearing forever. They are the stories of the heroes who continued to serve their country and the cause of freedom, even behind the walls and barbed-wire fences of war prisons. Now, thanks to the efforts of a celebrated SIU filmmaker and the proud offspring of the greatest generation, many of these stories are being told for the first time, preserving them for history’s sake and in a search for truth for future generations.

The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute will present the SIU premiere of filmmaker Jan Thompson’s documentary Never the Same: The Prisoner-of-War Experience in a special screening Monday, September 14 at 7 p.m. in the SIU Student Center Auditorium. This event is free and open to the public, and the film’s narrator, Loretta Swit, will attend the screening.

Never The Same is a hard-hitting documentary written and directed by Thompson, a professor in the SIU School of Mass Communications and Media Arts as well as a writer and producer of more than three-hundred television programs, including award-winning documentaries reaching across subject genres.

Never the Same, after more than two decades in the making, had its world premiere in spring 2013 at Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center, and has since met with critical and audience acclaim at film festivals and screenings around the world. The documentary tells the story of the horrors endured by prisoners held in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps. It is a subject very close to Thompson’s heart, as she tells Nightlife in an exclusive interview.

“It has taken about twenty-two years for me to produce this film, to finally have it finished,” Thompson said. “I got into the topic because of my father. He had been a prisoner of war. When I was growing up, he would not talk about it. This was very common for men who were former P.O.W.s. Some men didn’t want to talk about it; others wanted to just forget about it. And for some, family members weren’t interested in learning. My brothers and I were interested, but we respected that perhaps it might bring back some painful memories. Then my dad started going to what were called prisoner-of-war reunions. That happened in the eighties. I think a lot of men finally started to reach out to each other, because they had a special bond that nobody else had. These reunions were really important, and I finally went with my dad to a P.O.W. reunion in 1991. There were over five-hundred former P.O.W.’s. It was a very special weekend. They were all very humble. What really hit me was that none of them considered themselves heroes, because they were surrendered. A lot of these men would talk to me, unlike my father. I was hearing stories that weekend that I had never heard before; I was getting a major history lesson. I can remember leaving and thinking, ‘Why doesn’t anybody know anything about this?’ I was in live sports— I was one of the directors for the Chicago Bulls. I had done a few documentaries here and there, but this just kept growing on me. I really wanted to be able to tell this story.”

This story grew into a feature-length film that not only draws from the experiences of Thompson’s father, but also from a host of other men who struggled against the odds for life and limb at the hands of ruthless enemies as a war raged all around them.

The making of the film has not been an easy journey for the director. Because the story of what went on behind the walls of the prison camps was played out behind enemy lines and in almost total secrecy, documentation of the story depended almost solely on the recollections of those willing to share experiences.

“As I was doing research, I quickly realized that it was going to be extremely difficult to tell the story because there are no images,” Thompson revealed. “What visual material is out there in existence is Japanese propaganda and war materials, which really didn’t show you the horrors of the war. Finally, I just said, ‘Okay, I’m going to do it.’ I knew it was going to be tough. But it was a story that needed to be told so that these men are not forgotten. People need to remember and understand what they went through and what they sacrificed. Hopefully people will see this and understand a little bit more about this area of history.”

Documentaries are typically considered a more journalistic style of filmmaking, made for the purpose of teaching a balanced view of history. Nightlife asked Thompson if having a father who endured the horrors of a Japanese prison made objectivity difficult to retain. Thompson said that while making the film began as a way to honor her father’s struggle, during the years the process of finding and documenting the stories became a journey of its own, a learning experience as much for her as it will be for audiences of the film.

“Originally, my intention was that it was going to be about my father, because my dad had been born on December 7— Pearl Harbor Day,” she reflected. “I thought that was a good, interesting hook. But when I sat down with my dad, he would not really open up to me. This was really typical of him. As a writer, sometimes you can hide that, but if someone isn’t going to open up or be interesting on camera, you can’t hide that. Then, taking a step back and regrouping, my first intent became to really show how harsh the Japanese were. The Imperial Japanese were just brutal with crimes against humanity. But then as I started to collect material and I started to think about my audience, I knew that it was more important to tell the story of how the men survived the cruelty of Imperial Japan. An audience is going to get that.

“At the beginning of my process, I probably would have been more slanted, but I pulled myself out from that,” Thompson added. “I feel like I’m pretty down the middle with this film. I’m actually working with the State Department, and there’s a possibility that this film might be seen in Japan. They have signed off on it, meaning that they see it down the middle of the road, too— meaning that it’s not overemphasizing anything. With documentary makers, often it’s their view and theirs only. I have tried to stay as balanced as possible, with just the facts, and let the audience interpret a lot of the stuff that’s going on.”

The heart of what’s going on in Never the Same is a story of survival. While many books, films, and documentaries have portrayed the horrors of surviving war on the front lines, Thompson’s stark writing and the real-life memories of men taken prisoner by the Japanese tell two stories of survival— the survival of life behind prison walls, and the survival of a life scarred by its memory.

“I think when an audience sees this film, they start to understand just how low these men had to get to survive,” Thompson said. “War is really cruel, and sometimes captors are even crueler. One quote I use in the film is, “You either survived on love or you survived on hate.” You either loved life so much that you refused to give it up, or you hated your enemy so much you weren’t going to let them win. I don’t know how many of those guys survived off of hate, because of the cruelty of their captors. When they came home it was extremely difficult. There was a high suicide rate, and a lot of the men had drinking problems. When the men were prisoners they had to be completely in control of themselves. They could not show any anger. They were constantly beaten or smacked around or slapped, and they could not fight back. If they fought back, they’d get beaten more, or they could be executed. So they always had to stay in control of all this anger. When they came home and were liberated, they were expected to become normal. You don’t become normal right away. In a typical case, they had zero patience— it didn’t take much for them to explode. And they didn’t really have mental-health treatment back then, because people really didn’t understand the trauma of war.”

In addition to telling the story of courage and survival through on-camera interviews with the men still alive to tell it, Never the Same takes audiences back in time, continents away, and behind Japanese prison walls through the dramatic interpretations of survivors’ written recollections.

The written remembrances are brought to vivid life by a gifted Hollywood cast. Two-time Emmy Award-winning actress Loretta Swit, known to millions for her eleven seasons as Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan on M*A*S*H, serves as the primary narrator for Never the Same and has traveled with Thompson in support of the film. Swit will be present in the SIU Student Center Ballroom when the documentary makes its Carbondale debut.

Joining Swit in the voice cast are fellow M*A*S*H alumni Mike Farrell and Jamie Farr, as well as Ed Asner, Alec Baldwin, Robert Loggia, Kathleen Turner, John O’Hurley, Robert Wagner, Don Murray, and Sam Waterston. Thompson says that from Swit right down the line, the roster of gifted performers has been a blessing both to find and to work with.

“I’ve got a pretty damn good cast!” she laughs. “I had produced a film which could be considered the precursor to Never the Same, called The Tragedy of Bataan, narrated by Alec Baldwin. I had been introduced to Alec Baldwin by one of my P.O.W.s; there was a relationship there. My P.O.W. friend reached out to Alec and said, ‘Hey, Jan needs some help. Can you help her?’ Alec called me at home and said, ‘What do you need?’ As I was producing these films I realized I had a ton of material. There was hardly any material out there about this, so I felt compelled to tell as much of the story as I could. So then I realized I was going to do this short film just on the Bataan Death March, and then a separate film on the overall experience. So when Alec called and said, ‘Hey, what do you need?’ I said, ‘Well, I need you to narrate The Tragedy of Bataan, and then there’s this five-part radio series, and I need you to narrate that, and with Never the Same, I want you to read the main diary.’ My main character is read by Alec Baldwin. That just knocked my socks off.

“Then, I had always wanted a female narrator,” Thompson continued. “I wanted a female voice to come up against the male voice. I was having a hard time locating someone, and another friend of mine said, ‘Well, I know Loretta Swit. Why don’t you reach out to her?’ So I did. I sent an email forwarded to her through my friend about the project. She responded back within five minutes and said, ‘I’m interested.’ I sent her the script, and she responded and said, ‘You know what? You’ve got a lot of diaries here. Hey, I’ve got some friends!’ The rest of this amazing cast are her friends that she called to help me out.

“Loretta has been a major force with this film,” Thompson added. “She’s like my queen out there. It has been a phenomenal experience to have been able to work with the caliber of actors and actresses that I have. No writer could write as well as some of these diaries are read. They are all very powerful, and these actors are amazing. Working with these celebrities was a dream come true. I look at my cast and it’s just like, ‘Wow!’”

While the cast of Hollywood royalty may certainly raise Never the Same’s star power and potential marketability, Thompson tells Nightlife that she sincerely hopes those who come to the SIU Student Center to view the film on Monday night will not forget who the real stars of the film are: the men who lived the story. Furthermore, Thompson hopes that the film will preserve the story, so that those who fought for their lives behind the walls of an enemy prison will not be forgotten.

“Many of us don’t know about this history,” Thompson said. “Most people know about the war in Europe. Most people know about the Holocaust, because there is a lot of material out there. The war in the Pacific isn’t taught. Never the Same is an overview. It gives a good background for people to understand what happened there. It is my hope that more films will be produced that will go into more detail. I don’t have one main character. It’s not just about one character. If there was any gift that came in realizing that my dad wasn’t going to be a very good interview, it was realizing that this story could not be told by just one man. So many things happened, and a lot of similar things happened to each man. I’m hoping that with this film there will be a foundation.”

The world is a different place than seventy years ago. In 2015, fewer and fewer people can remember a time when America and Japan were mortal enemies, and for many, World War II is a distant experience that is sometimes easy to leave in dusty history books. Thompson hopes that Never the Same will teach and inform, in an effort to ensure that the horrors recorded in the story are not permitted to happen again.

“I hope that young people seeing this film will start to understand a few things about the tragedy of war,” Thompson said. “This really did happen. And when you’re in a war, not everybody plays by the rules. Imperial Japan did not play by the rules, and they did not recognize the Geneva Convention, hence the cruelty. People need to know this. There is a new Japan now, but it is my hope that young people will understand that those in Imperial Japan were caught by fanatic militarists. They were not politicians and they were not diplomats. We have to constantly remind ourselves that these things can happen, and we don’t want our governments to be overthrown by those who don’t understand the democratic process. I hope that people seeing the film will understand that humans are capable of some really cruel things when they’re in power. Civilization has to be kept in check. We have to keep an eye on everybody. But what I also hope that people will learn is that you don’t give up. If there’s something that these men handed down to their kids and to this filmmaker, it’s that you don’t give up. If they had given up, they would have died. I would definitely have to say the other thing is to not be afraid to rely on yourself.”

For more about Never the Same: The Prisoner-of-War Experience, visit the film’s website at <http://www.nts-pow.com>. For more about the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, visit <http://www.PaulSimonInstitute.siu.edu>.

who: Paul Simon Public Policy Institute

what: Jan Thompson’s Never the Same: The Prisoner of War Experience featuring Loretta Swit (film screening)

where: Student Center Auditorium

 

when: Monday, September 14

Julian Bond: The Nightlife Interview

Venues & Businesses
SIU Student Center


Who:
What:
Where:
When:
From Nightlife, October 1, 1998
Chris Wissmann
Video Comentary

Horace Julian Bond’s career as a civil-rights and political leader is practically peerless. There may be nobody other than Jesse Jackson who has for so long led for so well.

While still in college in 1960, Bond, now 58, was a founder of the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights, an Atlanta University Center student civil-rights organization. The group won integration of Atlanta's movie theaters, lunch counters and parks. Bond himself was arrested for sitting in at the segregated cafeteria at Atlanta City Hall.

Later that year, Bond also helped form the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and became SNCC's communications director. He edited the SNCC newsletter, The Student Voice, and worked voter registration drives throughout the South.

Bond entered electoral politics in 1965, winning a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives. Members of the House voted not to seat him because of his opposition to the Vietnam War. Bond won a second election to fill his empty seat in 1966 and the House voted to keep him out again. He won a third election in 1966, and a month later the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Georgia House violated Bond's rights when it refused him his seat.          In 1968 Bond was nominated for vice president of the United States, but had to withdraw his name because he was too young to serve.

When Morris Dees and Joe Levin founded the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1971, Bond became its first president.

Bond was elected to the Georgia Senate in 1974. He served six terms in the Senate until he ran an unsuccessful congressional race in 1986.

Along the way, Bond has written several books and dozens of magazine and newspaper articles and commentaries and taught at several universities. He also narrated numerous television programs, including the 1994 Academy-Award-winning, A Time for Justice, a documentary on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Teaching Tolerance” program. Not without a sense of humor, Bond hosted Saturday Night Live in April 1977 and counted John Belushi as one of his friends.

Bond, who currently serves as NAACP board chairman, will deliver the keynote address at the Carbondale NAACP’s twenty-second Freedom Fund banquet Sunday, October 11 at 6 PM at the SIUC Student Center Ballrooms.

Tickets to the event are $25 and must be purchased in advance. For tickets and other information, call Ann Marie at (618) 549-4620 or Corene at (618) 457-4515.

On Monday morning I spoke with Bond, who delivers his statements in a deliberate, thoughtful manner in a deep but reedy voice. Here’s how it went.

As I was writing questions for you, no kidding, it came on the news that George Wallace died. Any thoughts about his legacy?

Well, for better or worse, he’s going to be remembered as the person who nationalized racism in American politics. And despite his, what I consider to be, sincere apologies, that’s what his legacy is going to be.

Athletes have always figured largely in both African American communities and the rest of the nation. In the ‘50s, there was Jackie Robinson. In the ‘60s, there was a Muhammad Ali, a Jim Brown— people who were not only great athletes but who were politically active and who seemed to reach the African American community on a political level. I don’t think we see that so much today in, say, the Michael Jordans.

No, we don’t see much of it. Now, the Michael Jordans of this world are generous with their resources in helping finance social service in black America. They are not nearly so generous in helping finance social justice. And it is social justice that we require as much, if not more than social service. If social justice is provided, social service takes care of itself.

How do we reach some of the younger athletes—

I tell ya, I wish I knew. I’d be knocking on their doors in a minute.

It’s kind of odd that it didn’t transpire, that the Mike Tysons didn’t see the Muhammad Alis for their political stands and maybe take up some of that.

Yes, it is odd. I’m unable to account for it. But it does seem peculiar to me that Jackie Robinson, you know, these other figures didn’t hold up a standard of behavior that these other, younger guys would want to live up to.

I saw a story in Sports Illustrated a couple years ago, interviews with black baseball players, and a striking number of them had no idea who Jackie Robinson was.

Well, it’s like the guy who mugged—

Rosa Parks.

One place where I do believe we’ve seen some political movement, however, is in music. Hip-hop particularly seems to have picked up some of the political aspects of, say, Sly and the Family Stone or maybe some of James Brown’s more political stuff.

Yes, but they’re, I think, an exception

Do you think that’s reaching the audience?

I’m not sure what the political message is. If it’s simply a description that things are in bad shape, that’s OK, but what really is required here is some course of action, and I’m not convinced we’re getting that.

What is the role of the church in today’s civil-rights movement, particularly with the rise in non-Christian faiths in the African American community?

Well, it ought to be as a definer of right. All too often, the institutional church preaches an other-worldly religion, salvation in the great hereafter, rather than an applied religion that speaks to our condition here on Earth.

What do you think the impact has been of non-Christian faiths in the African American community, particularly Islam— both orthodox Islam and the Nation of Islam?

Well, I think all of it shows that, first, our population is becoming more diverse; second, that large numbers of people are looking for some sort of meaningful search experience and they may not find it in the institutional, mainstream church, and so they look to other faiths. And then these other faiths have an enormous appeal. Islam preaches true brotherhood and orthodox Islam practices it in a way that orthodox Christianity doesn’t always seem to.

Political power— enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, for instance— didn’t result in economic empowerment. How is economic parity achieved?

In a variety of ways. For one, more vigorous enforcement of existing laws against discrimination. When a black person is denied a job or promotion or education, that person really is being impoverished, and that impoverishment impoverishes the community in which he or she lives. That’s one thing.

The other is to expand access to credit, to the banking system to eliminate red-lining, to make it sure that racial minorities aren’t the victims of these pernicious economic policies, so they can be wage-earners, income-earners, taxpayers...

How do we make voting part of the civic responsibility, especially with younger voters? It seems to be an issue that crosses racial lines. I know [Louis] Farrakhan tried to get a voting bloc of younger voters together to try to influence things, but wasn’t able to really do it in the last election.

Well, I think you have to go back to the tried-and-true methods that have been successful in the past and will be in the future. You have to first go to people where they are and register them. You have to educate them about what the issues are and how these issues affect them even if they don’t think they do. Then, on Election Day, you have to knock on their door or call them on the phone and say, “Listen— this is the day. If you need a ride, I’ll come pick you up. Knock on your neighbor’s door and I’ll come take them, too.”

So you have to do sort of the tried-and-true stuff that has worked so well in the past.

One of the other problems might be getting candidates who can not only address some of the issues of those voters, but also have a reasonable shot at winning. That seems also to be a major obstacle.

It’s sort of a which-came-first proposition. I think if there’s a body of registered and aggressive voters, candidates will emerge to meet their needs.

How do you make the NAACP relevant with younger people who might find it part of the establishment or who feel it works more within the system than they’d like?

Well, I first say, I don’t know who does not work in the system. I don’t understand this dichotomy. Who does not work in the system?

Secondly, I’d say that we are relevant to young people. We have 350 college and high school chapters scattered around the country. We have a large complement of young people. We have more youth members than any other adult organization that has both youth and adult members.

So we’re not lacking our share of young people, but having said that, we could have more adult and youth members and we just got to reach out to them. I think if people understand what we do, then they’ll say, “Gee, I’d like to be a part of that.”

What do you feel are the primary civil-rights issues today?

There are several: maintaining affirmative action, one is more vigorous enforcement of civil-rights laws, and one is getting the beneficiaries of white privilege to admit their privilege and to work to share that privilege with other people not like them.

That’s like what Jesse Jackson is trying to do in courting Wall Street to invest in African American communities.

Indeed.

Do you think that approach could prove self-destructive? One of the few but very obvious backfirings in the civil-rights movement was that the number of African American-owned businesses collapsed when white-owned businesses finally allowed themselves to start serving blacks.

I think that was an unintended fallout of the movement, but it doesn’t have to be a fallout of the present day. You know, we live increasingly in an economically integrated world. It’s sad, but the day when the neighborhood Mom-and-Pop grocery store could compete with the A&P, that day is gone unless that store specializes in some unique way. This is not a problem peculiar to black business— it’s a problem peculiar to the American economy. We’ve got to be competitive in the large society, and I think that’s what Jesse Jackson is all about.

who: Julian Bond

what: the Carbondale NAACP’s twenty-second Freedom Fund banquet

where: SIUC Student Center Ballrooms

when: Sunday, October 11

Editorial— S.O.S.: Save Our Strip (And How We Got in This Terrible Mess)

On the heels of the Illinois Main Street / Illinois State Historic Preservation Agency joint state c
Chris Wissmann
Video Comentary

On the heels of the Illinois Main Street / Illinois State Historic Preservation Agency joint state conference coming to the city from June 23 to June 25 (see Music Notes), the city of Carbondale continues the process of downtown revitalization with a workshop Wednesday, June 24 at 6 p.m. in the Carbondale Civic Center. The goal is for the public to go over the Downtown Advisory Committee’s recommendations with Houseal Lavigne Associates, which the city hired to create a master-development plan for the downtown.

A little historical perspective is in order, however.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the Strip was a thriving entertainment district. But students went there, drank beer, and listened to rock and or roll. Local religious conservatives couldn’t abide such sinful behavior, especially after it landed SIU on Playboy’s list of the nation’s top party schools.

At the urging of the university, the city clamped down hard. The bar-entry age rose to twenty-one. City government ended the popular Halloween street fair in jackboot fashion, provoking riots. Enrollment began falling like a rock— I would argue in large part due to the aforementioned measures, a contention with which I detect widespread agreement at all levels of the city government and SIU administration— and the Strip slowly lost its economic and cultural luster.

Now everyone is scrambling to repair the damage before it reaches a point of no return. But it’s worth noting that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

During its heyday, the Strip mostly served students, with the greatest amount of activity taking place at nightclubs. Critics believed that if the Strip diversified, then it would become even more prosperous (and bring a more morally desirable form of economic activity with it). To force the issue, the city limited liquor licenses in the downtown— that reduced student bar traffic, resulting in smaller, easier-to-control afterhours crowds. But, the thinking also went, as bars closed, in their place shops and restaurants would open and cater to families with children.

The city constructed the Mill Street Underpass in part to direct motor traffic past the downtown, where it was hoped SIU employees would stop to shop or get dinner on their ways home.

But retail establishments (facing subsidized competition from the University Mall) and restaurants didn’t open in numbers that served anywhere near those generated by now-shuttered bars like the American Tap, Rompers, or Frankie’s. And the underpass dissected the Strip, increasing downtown automobile traffic intent on quickly getting home, not stopping and spending money. At the same time, the underpass irreparably disrupted the once almost-continuous pedestrian-safe walk from Grand Avenue to Route 13, encouraging students to seek meals and entertainment elsewhere in the city. And of course, there were ever-fewer student customers for the Strip’s businesses to serve.

But certainly hope remains alive. Major developments downtown— including the Evolve student-housing complex and a Hilton Home2 Suites hotel— have great potential to lead a positive transformation.

And that won’t happen without help— a Tax Increment Finance district was critical to landing the Evolve deal, and the prospect of TIF incentives probably sealed the Hilton project, too. The city must remain proactive to make sure that recent developments become net gains and then parlay them into future successes.

 

But at the same time, everyone involved needs to understand the character of the Strip and what makes it truly special. Those who try to change Carbondale’s downtown into something it’s not are doomed to fail, and they will take the rest of the city down with them.

Editorial— Rauner on Campus: The Proper Reaction

As part of the university’s commencement ceremonies, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is slated to speak S
Chris Wissmann
Video Comentary

As part of the university’s commencement ceremonies, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is slated to speak Saturday, May 16 at the SIU Arena. Students have circulated a petition to disinvite him and campus employees, especially union members who rightly feel themselves in the governor’s budgetary crosshairs, are planning to picket his address.

Protesters, however, might keep in mind the following.

Rauner’s proposed austerity budget is indeed a knife in the gut of SIU in particular and Southern Illinois in general. It has forced the university to raise tuition and fees and might require SIU to lay off significant numbers of professors and staff.

Nevertheless, we need Rauner to come to SIU. He must visit the campus and surrounding community. He needs to see first-hand the places and look into the eyes of the people that his budget proposals will devastate. And we need to change his heart, or at least see if he indeed has one.

If the petition to remove Rauner as a graduation speaker succeeds, however, that won’t happen.

Picketing, meanwhile, must have as its goal more than simple agitation. Rauner doesn’t appear concerned with popularity— especially in traditionally liberal bastions like higher education, whose citizens can’t intimidate him into backing down. Rauner’s antiunion attitude verges on the pathological, and faculty unions aren’t exactly composed of swing voters. Rauner can ignore all of their threats because they didn’t vote for him last year, they won’t vote for him in 2018, and he knows it. He long ago wrote them off in his election calculations.

Instead, professors, as educators, need to approach picketing at the graduation ceremonies from the perspective that everybody is capable of learning, including Rauner. Theirs should be less of a protest than an informational campaign designed to teach the governor about the harm that will befall SIU should his fiscal plans find approval with the General Assembly. They need to demonstrate the tangible benefits of funding SIU (Rauner isn’t prone to esoteric arguments about the inherent value of, say, liberal-arts education) to prove that the state is getting more than its money’s worth.

And their approach cannot be so myopic as to be easily dismissed as self-serving. Every other state university in Illinois is facing a similar budgetary attack from Rauner. Meanwhile, many other state departments and contractors are also on the chopping block, and SIU’s unions need to find common cause with them rather than fall victim to Rauner’s divide-and-conquer tactics. Proposed cuts to Amtrak, for example, would drive down already near-record-low SIU enrollment numbers by depriving students of low-cost public transportation to and from Chicago, where the university draws vast numbers of its student body— and that could cause just as many layoffs as direct cuts to SIU funding. Proposed cuts to the Local Government Distributive Fund would multiply these problems by devastating municipal budgets, resulting in even more unemployment and further impoverishing an already economically depressed region. And on and on.

But a tight misfocus on the governor could prove wasteful. Rauner himself isn’t without importance— a governor’s proposed budgets can set the tone for what state government ultimately decides to fund, and at what levels. The real power in state government, however, rests in Speaker of the House and Illinois Democratic Party chair Mike Madigan. Democrats hold supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly and are not necessarily buying into Rauner’s proposed solutions to the state’s very real budget crisis.

Outnumbered Springfield Republicans might not have the spine to back Rauner’s budget cuts, either—on May 6, when House Democrats unanimously voted against Rauner’s cuts to human-service programs, G.O.P. representatives unanimously voted present rather than in favor.

A similar legislative smackdown is probably in store when Madigan calls for a vote on Rauner’s proposal for union-busting “right-to-work” zones.

Shoring up support for funding in the General Assembly would prove more fruitful than picketing the governor’s graduation address.

Ultimately, however, the targets of state funding cuts need to understand the magnitude of the deep financial hole in which Illinois finds itself after decades of mismanagement and malfeasance. Rauner’s austerity approach will not help the state climb out of debt— it’s sunk Kansas into its own deep fiscal pit, and Rauner has hired as his administration’s chief financial officer Donna Arduin, who helped shape the Sunflower State’s economic policies.

 

But budgeting for SIU and other important state institutions takes place in the context of Illinois’s ability to fund them. Those who don’t want to find themselves on the unemployment line must develop politically viable but legitimate solutions to the budget crisis and help cultivate the critical mass necessary to win their passage in the legislature. And then, if Rauner doesn’t support them, they should organize behind someone who can defeat him in four years.

David Axelrod, Obama’s Campaign Strategist, Speaks at Shryock: An Exclusive Nightlife Interview

Venues & Businesses
Shryock Auditorium


Who: Paul Simon Public Policy Institute
What: David Axelrod’s Believer: My Forty Years in Politics (politics lecture)
Where:
When: 2015-04-13
David Axelrod, the man who masterminded Barack Obama’s two history-making presidential campaigns, wi
Jennifer “Jay” Bull
Video Comentary

David Axelrod, the man who masterminded Barack Obama’s two history-making presidential campaigns, will lecture Monday, April 13 at 7 p.m. in Shryock Auditorium. Axelrod’s memoir was published this year, and he will speak about his career in politics and working with President Obama and Paul Simon, he told Nightlife in an exclusive interview.

“I am going to be talking about a book I just wrote called Believer: My Forty Years in Politics, and if I could have had a longer subtitle on the book it would have said How My Idealism Survived Forty Years of Politics,” Axelrod said. “I really believe in our ability to impact our future in our democracy and politics. Even in these very difficult times we see evidence of that.”

He started his career as a journalist writing for the Chicago Tribune and then worked on Paul Simon’s political campaigns. It’s no surprise that the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute is sponsoring Axelrod’s lecture.

“I have a whole lifetime of experience that I wanted to share,” Axelrod said. “Part of that experience is with Paul Simon. I was a reporter for the Chicago Tribune and Paul Simon recruited me to work on his senate campaign in 1984, and that’s how I went from journalism to politics. Paul was really the inspiration for my switch. He is responsible for the spirit of this book.”

According to Axelrod, Simon instilled a spirit of idealism into politics, as he worked to help people and make their lives better even when Simon’s ideas were unpopular.

“The thing about Paul that I admired was he was a very genial guy,” Axelrod said. “He had great relationships with friends and foes— political foes— alike. He was a good human being, but as a public official he was a courageous person. He was a strong supporter of civil rights, which wasn’t always a popular position in Southern Illinois. He was a major promoter of political reform in the Illinois legislature at a time when that was not a majority position there. Paul did what he felt was right, and he was willing to risk his own political neck in order to do what was right for the country.”

This integrity and geniality helped him win the hearts of voters.

“I think people admired him for that,” Axelrod said. “I ended up managing his campaign for the senate in 1984, and what was surprising about the win was that Ronald Reagan was carrying the state by a landslide and Paul won that election. He carried self-described conservatives, and they weren’t voting for him because they thought he was conservative, they were voting for him because they thought he was a man of integrity and principle, that they could trust him. That is a great legacy.”

Axelrod said the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute is a wonderful place for him to speak, in part due to his connection with Simon.

“Paul was a believer, and there is no more appropriate place for me to come talk about this book than there, in the place where he is most appreciated,” Axelrod said.

Axelrod’s book and lecture span several decades of topics, including what sparked his interest in politics at a very young age.

“My challenge was what to include and what not to include, and there was plenty that I couldn’t include because it would have been an imposition on my readers,” Axelrod said. “The book spans when I saw John F. Kennedy as a five-year-old and how inspired I was as a child. This got me interested in working in campaigns when I was a young kid, and it led me to journalism in college when I moved to Chicago. Of course, a bunch of the book has to do with my journey with Barack Obama.”

Working with Obama after working with Simon was a natural progression.

“Barack was, interestingly, a protegé of Paul Simon’s,” Axelrod said. “Paul was very helpful to Barack early in his career. One of the first bills that Barack ever passed in the Illinois legislature was a campaign-finance reform bill, and it was the first campaign-finance reform bill in [Illinois in] a quarter of a century. I think Paul was the author of the previous bill, and Paul helped him draft that proposal. One of my great sadnesses was that Paul had planned on what he was going to do in the 2004 [U.S.] senate primary when Obama was running. There were seven candidates and Paul had a relationship with many of them, but he ultimately decided wanted to go with Barack. He called me in late fall 2003 and said that he wanted to go ahead and endorse him, and I said to him, ‘Let’s wait and roll this out after the first of the year when the campaign is in full swing,’ because the primary was in March. Paul said, ‘That’s fine and let’s do that. I’m just going into the hospital to do surgery but we can plan that.”

Sadly, Simon died before he could endorse Obama as planned.

“The endorsement never came and Paul didn’t live to see Barack as a senator, much less as the president,” Axelrod said. “We ended up doing an ad with Sheila Simon talking about Barack Obama and Paul Simon and their kinship, and that ad was tremendously powerful, so even from the grave Paul Simon was a huge influence on that election.”

Axelrod also helped Rod Blagojevich’s run for the U.S. House of Representatives.

“He was a young legislator and I liked him then,” Axelrod said. “He had an identification with working people. When he came to me wanting to run for governor, I had a different view. I wasn’t sure if he was ready for that, and I asked him why he wanted to run, and he said, ‘Well, you can help me with that,’ and that’s not what I do. That was sort of the end of our relationship. I am sad for him and his family about how things worked out, but I am also very sad for our state that this story turned out so tragically, because the ramifications weren’t just for him but for his constituents, and we are still living with the impact today.”

Axelrod considered Blagojevich’s gubernatorial campaign discouraging.

“It was really my consternation and my disillusionment when Rod was running for governor that kind of led me to Obama, because in the summer of 2002, with Rod running what I felt was a pretty cynical campaign, I reevaluated whether I wanted to continue in this work. Barack called me and said that he was thinking of running for senate, would I sit down with him? I ended up bypassing some other people who were better-known and better-funded because I felt if I could help Obama to the senate that was something that I could do to help to recharge my idealism, and it started this incredible journey. So in a weird way, I owe that association to Blagojevich.”

From the senate to the presidency, Axelrod worked with Obama on his campaigns, and after the 2008 election Axelrod became a senior advisor to President Obama.

“There are several chapters devoted to [Obama’s campaign] in this book,” Axelrod said. “To me, it was the campaign of a lifetime. It’s funny, because I also did Paul Simon’s campaign for president in 1988, and the kicker to our ads was, ‘Isn’t it time to believe again?’ Barack’s campaign for president embodied that theme and had that same sense of optimism and hope that we could get big things done for the country. When I think back to that 2008 campaign and the things that Obama promised to take on— health reform, bring these wars to an end, the financial reform, ending don’t-ask don’t-tell, outstanding educational opportunities, higher educational opportunities— a lot of the things that he ran on are intact and in place today.”

Axelrod’s lecture is free and open to the public.

For more information on the program, visit <http://www.PaulSimonInstitute.siu.edu>.

who: Paul Simon Public Policy Institute

what: David Axelrod’s Believer: My Forty Years in Politics (politics lecture)

where: Shryock Auditorium

 

when: Monday, April 13

Wendy Davis and Sister Mary Antona Ebo Come to SIU

Venues & Businesses
Morris Library
SIU Student Center


Who: Women’s History Month
What: Texas state senator Wendy Davis’s Forgetting to Be Afraid (lecture); Sister Mary Antona Ebo (lecture)
Where:
When: 2015-03-23 - 2015-03-25
Wendy Davis is well known for her work as in the Texas state senate, where she garnered national att
Jennifer “Jay” Bull
Video Comentary

Wendy Davis is well known for her work as in the Texas state senate, where she garnered national attention in 2013 for her filibuster a bill that led to more restrictive abortion regulations. The publicity caused Democrats to persuade Davis, an outspoken supporter of gender equality, to give up her senate reelection campaign and run for governor in 2014, a race she lost to Greg Abbott.

Now, Davis will speak Monday, March 23 at 6 p.m. in the Student Center Ballrooms as part of Women’s History Month activities. After her lecture, Davis will sign copies her book, Forgetting to Be Afraid.

“The title [of the book] was developed from something that Lady Bird Johnson used to say,” Davis told Nightlife. “She was very, very shy by nature and yet she helped to campaign for her husband’s presidential reelection. She was really out there on things that mattered to her, and when she was asked how she managed to push through her shyness to do that, she would say that sometimes you have to get so wrapped up in something you forget to be afraid.”

Davis’s eleven-hour filibuster really spoke to women and those fighting for gender equality.

“I think in the gender-equality arena, we all need to own our place in that conversation and use our voices, because they’re powerful to help shape what happens in the gender-equality movement in this country,” Davis said. “I think that one of the things I learned, certainly after the filibuster and throughout my gubernatorial race last year, was that women across the country are hungry for people to fight for them. People who will be a voice for the things that really matter to them. I can see a tremendous pent up frustration— particularly with young women— feeling like they don’t have older role models who are out there doing that for them. I’m honored that so many that I’ve talked to considered me someone who is doing that.”

Davis has really put herself into the arena as an outspoken feminist during a time when many consider feminism to be a bad word. The lack of understanding of what feminism means, Davis said, is part of the problem.

“It concerns me— and this is actually something I talk a little bit about in my speech,” Davis said. “There are many young women right now that are eschewing the term feminism because they’ve been taught by the far right that it is a dirty word, that to be a feminist means that we have to check our femininity at the door, when what it truly means is that we believe that we should have the right to choose freely what our roles will be. Whether that is to celebrate our roles as stay-at-home mothers and wives, whether it is to celebrate our roles as women who are both mothers and career women, whether it is to celebrate women who have chosen career[s] and not to have children— all of these are choices that should be available to women, and feminism stands for the idea that we will defend all of them and that we celebrate each unique role and collective roles that we play as women.”

Gender equality, however, is not the only focus of Davis’s career. She said she enjoys “giving a voice to people who feel like they don’t have one, and that is not limited the gender arena. I have been a very, very strong proponent of supporting our public-education system. I’ve been a very strong proponent of consumer reform in both the electricity and the financial arena. I know that there are people in this state and elsewhere who are happy that there is someone fighting for them. Some folks are busy doing the best they can to put food on the table for their families and they need to know that when they elect someone or vote to elect someone they’re sending someone who is truly going to fight for the things that matter to them. I have been very proud that I have stayed true to that in my public-service career and I plan to continue to stay true to it even though at least temporarily my public service career is on hold.”

Davis plans to continue working toward equality through her lectures.

“I hope to continue being an important part of the conversation on gender equality, specifically,” Davis said. “As I mentioned, there are many other issues that I am passionate about, but gender equality seems to be a space and a place where we need strong voices entering the conversation and being a part of the conversation. It is my hope to continue to do that.”

In addition, Morris Library will commemorate the contributions of Sister Mary Antona Ebo to the civil rights movement, including the marches from Selma to Montgomery of fifty years ago. Ebo, a black Catholic nun, will herself come to speak Wednesday, March 25 at 2 p.m. in the third floor rotunda at Morris Library. Father Joseph Brown will deliver opening remarks after the audience has a chance to sing some of the hymns that were sung at the marches from Selma to Montgomery.

But first, a screening of the film Sisters of Selma: Bearing Witness for Change will take place Tuesday March 24 at 6 p.m. in the Hall of Presidents and Chancellors at Morris Library. Jayasri Hart’s film documents the work that Catholic nuns, including Ebo, did in the service of the civil-rights movement.

All of these events are free and open to the public.

For more information, including the complete Women’s History Month schedule, visit <http://www.InclusiveExcellence.siu.edu>.

who: Women’s History Month

what: Texas state senator Wendy Davis’s Forgetting to Be Afraid (lecture)

where: Student Center Ballroom D

when: Monday, March 23

who: Women’s History Month

what: Sister Mary Antona Ebo (lecture)

where: Morris Library Third Floor Rotunda

 

when: Wednesday, March 25

Editorial— Splash of Cold Water: Tell Rauner to Resume Work on the Super Splash Park

Pictured: Local Officials Gather at a Rally to Support the Super Splash Park.
Chris Wissmann
Video Comentary

On March 11, new Illinois Department of Natural Resources director Wayne Rosenthal suspended the federal pass-through grant that was funding construction on the Super Splash Park Outdoor Aquatic Center. The order clearly originated from Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Work on the Splash Park, which the Park District says is sixty-two percent complete and was on track to open by Memorial Day weekend, ground to an immediate halt. Park projects throughout the state were also cut off from funding, according to Rich Miller’s Capitol Fax blog.

A state legislator was told this was due to shortfalls in a subsidized-daycare program run by the Illinois Department of Human Services, according to an aid who spoke to Nightlife. It’s a clearly preposterous proposition— it’s hard to believe that the federal government would allow pass-through grants for capital projects to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to get dumped into operating revenue for the Department of Human Services.

Rauner might be holding back park funding to bully the General Assembly into approving his proposed cuts to daycare subsidies and other social programs. If so, it’s either the kind of bumbling incompetence the public came to expect from Pat Quinn or the gratuitous mean-spiritedness that characterized Rod Blagojevich. So much for Rauner governing differently than his predecessors.

The Splash Park has overwhelming community support, as evidenced by the ongoing, herculean fundraising efforts that have far exceeded the local match.

This needless delay at a critical stage of construction will cost Carbondale construction jobs and perhaps complicate and make even more expensive the resumption of the project if the governor gets around to approving it. If he doesn’t, the governor will create a terrible financial burden on the Park District, which will need to somehow pay for a giant, useless hole in the ground— that it dug in good faith upon securing the grant and fulfilling its requirements— or go deep into debt to finish construction.

The project was carefully timed to open by the beginning of this summer. The governor, should he take his time in lifting his delay, will seriously erode operating revenue for the Splash Park when it is completed. This delay will cost jobs, for young people in particular, that are in seriously short supply in a college town where the economy goes into hibernation every summer.

Readers should visit <http://www.SaveSplashPark.com>. The site contains an email form through which the public can contact elected officials who can tell Rauner to get the project back on track so it can open as scheduled. Urge them to

 

help educate Rauner about the importance and legitimacy of the project, and ask him to immediately lift his delay. If he refuses, ask these legislators to pass a legislative end-run around not only this delay but others like it throughout the state. It’s hard to believe they won’t easily find a veto-proof majority in favor of such an act.

This article was revised on March 19, 2015.

Nikki Giovanni: The Princess of Black Poetry and Godmother to Movements Comes to SIU

Venues & Businesses
Shryock Auditorium


Who: Black History Month
What: Nikki Giovanni’s Human by the Grace of God: A View of Diversity (lecture)
Where:
When: 2015-02-19
The Carbondale community will have a chance to hear renowned poet and activist Nikki Giovanni speak
K. Brattin
Video Comentary

The Carbondale community will have a chance to hear renowned poet and activist Nikki Giovanni speak Thursday, February 19 at 7 p.m. at Shryock Auditorium. Giovanni, whose talk is entitled Human by the Grace of God: A View of Diversity, is the keynote speaker for SIU’s 2015 celebration of Black History Month.

For decades, Giovanni has published honest poetry about her experience as a black woman in America and spoken out against racial injustices. Early in her career, this candidness got her labeled as a troublemaker. Now, says fellow poet and SIU creative writing professor Allison Joseph, Giovanni is an undisputed role model.

Born in Tennessee, Giovanni attended the historically black Fisk University, where she worked as a student organizer in the 1960s, establishing the Fisk chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. She also became involved in literary culture, first on campus and later as an active member of the Black Arts literary movement. When she was twenty-five, the year of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, Giovanni published a volume of Civil Rights movement-influenced poetry, Black Feeling Black Talk, and followed up with a second book within a year, launching a career that has proved both durable and influential. The New York Times gave her the name “The Princess of Black Poetry.”

Though Giovanni often takes on serious subjects, Joseph points out that one of Giovanni’s strengths as an artist is the unexpected humor of her work. “She’s hilarious,” Joseph told Nightlife. “A lot of students think poetry is supposed to be joyless or without any kind of humor to be deep. The best thing about Nikki is her true depth of experience that comes through whether she’s being serious or funny.”

Giovanni’s interests are broad, and her work is anything but one-note. She was a pioneer of modern-day spoken-word poetry, releasing an album set to gospel music in 1971. A vocal supporter of hip-hop culture, Giovanni is inspired by contemporary black music, and has a tattoo of the words “Thug Life” on her arm in honor of the late rapper Tupac Shakur. She has published several books for children. Giovanni’s 2009 collection, Bicycles: Love Poems, includes the love poems alluded to in the title, but it begins with an emotional tribute to the victims of the recent mass shooting at Virginia Tech, where she is a University Distinguished Professor. Her most recent book, 2013’s Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid, is a work of poetry and prose about her grandmother, mother, and sister.

Whether she’s writing radical calls to action or poignant verse about personal relationships, Giovanni has garnered awards and attention. She was Ebony’s Woman of the Year in 1970, and has been honored with both the NAACP Image Award and the Langston Hughes Medal. Oprah Winfrey named her a living legend.

Joseph, who has seen Giovanni read and speak several times, says that the appearance at Shryock is an opportunity not to be missed. Giovanni is a font of “deep wisdom,” explains Joseph. “She’s lived through so much, and always keeps her thoughts and remarks relevant and real. Students will relate to her in a very strong way— it’s almost evangelistic!”

The world has changed in many ways since the late 1960s, but racism is still a national concern. Joseph points out that the poetry world, like the larger culture, has struggled to deal with the aftermath of the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner last year. “Some poets of color have found online discussions, especially on Twitter, to be very hostile,” says Joseph. “Social media tends to bring out the worst in people, poets included. But social media also allows movements such as Black Poets Speak Out to gain momentum. Giovanni was considered controversial at one point; now she’s considered a godmother to such movements.”

Find out more at <http://nikki-giovanni.com>.

who: Black History Month

what: Nikki Giovanni’s Human by the Grace of God: A View of Diversity (lecture)

where: Shryock Auditorium

 

when: Thursday, February 19

Editorial: Shame on Illinois Democrats

As a Democrat, I’ve grown increasingly angry at the party’s pathetic showing at the polls last week.
Chris Wissmann
Video Comentary

As a Democrat, I’ve grown increasingly angry at the party’s pathetic showing at the polls last week. Losses by Gov. Pat Quinn, comptroller candidate Sheila Simon, and U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart are all pretty hard to forgive. But Bill Kilquist’s defeat by Republican nominee Terri Bryant in the race for the state representative seat in District 115 most explicitly shows the ugly heart of Illinois’s Democrat Party. If each of the above Democrats lost for a different mixture of reasons, the negativity of their campaigns gave voters a common, compelling reason for rejecting them.

Kilquist in particular should be ashamed enough to find a big, heavy rock, crawl under it, and never see sunlight again. And may the morons who ran his campaign into the ground permanently join him down there.

The Democratic nominee, once a popular Jackson County sheriff, is a likable man with connections and accomplishments enough to have merited a seat in the General Assembly. Republican incumbent Mike Bost was stepping aside to run for Congress. The district, home to a major university and a sizable population of blue-collar union workers, is drawn to what should be a Democratic advantage. Moreover, in Kilquist Democrats seemed to have found the first competent state-rep candidate since John Rendleman lost by a narrow margin to Bost in 1996. Indeed, on paper, Kilquist should’ve been a lock for the office.

But Kilquist blew it by running a substantively vacuous and morally indefensible campaign against Bryant.

In pile after pile of disgraceful campaign mailings, an entire forest’s worth of paper, Kilquist never once articulated a legitimate policy position. One flier, for example, mentioned his support for Medicare and Social Security— both federal programs over which the state General Assembly has virtually no influence, either a reflection of Kilquist’s utter cluelessness or a raw insult to the intelligence of the voting public.

Instead, Kilquist’s propaganda relentlessly slimed Bryant in extremely personal, inappropriate, politically irrelevant ways. In tone, they rang false, too: As one longtime local Democratic activist told me, “I happen to know Terri Bryant, and she’s a good person.”

During the campaign, a handful of local Democrats tried to defend Kilquist’s filthy tactics to me, saying the mailings all came from the state party and that the candidate had little or nothing to do with them. Balderdash. If Kilquist’s name was going on the advertising, he needed to take responsibility for its content.

Instead, Kilquist got to take responsibility for the result: Bryant righteously kicked his ass and handed it back to him. The returns weren’t even close— Bryant won sixty-two to thirty-eight percent. Even in the Democratic stronghold of Jackson County, where Kilquist was once pretty much sheriff for life— or as long as he cared to hold the seat— Bryant crushed him by almost eleven percent.

Let that be a lesson to other candidates: Try to win elections, not cause opponents to lose. In other words, run on substance— give the public good reasons to vote for someone, don’t just spew out reasons to vote against opponents.

It’s a big part of why Enyart, in a Twelfth Congressional District carefully gerrymandered to make Democrat victories easy, lost in an eleven-point landslide to Bost. Enyart tried to make Bost seem unhinged by showing Bost’s public tirades in ad after ad, but probably just succeeded in reminding the district’s voters how much Bost shared their own passionate disgust with government. Meanwhile, Enyart never successfully made a case for how he helped his constituents during his two years in Congress, and couldn’t point toward any clear path on which he wanted to lead them for the next term.

It’s a big part of why Quinn lost to Bruce Rauner, the most conservative, beatable teabagger the Republicans could have possibly nominated. Of course, Quinn proved rampantly incompetent during his two terms as governor— he couldn’t find his own butt with both hands. But Quinn possessed a major attribute: a real affinity for working people and the struggles they endure. If he’s buffoonish, the genuine care that frequently guides Quinn’s political career can make him endearing. But the combative, insulting tone Quinn adopted made him come off like a tiny boor and distracted voters from popular positions like Quinn’s desire to raise the minimum wage. How else can a referendum calling for a minimum-wage increase pass with sixty-six percent approval while Quinn lost an election in a solidly Democratic state to a man who publicly called for entirely eliminating the minimum wage?

Simon’s problem was somewhat different. She would make a fine attorney general. In two years she could overpower Bost in a run for Congress, which every Democrat in the Twelfth District should urge her to do. But Simon lacks any background in finance that would have qualified her for the comptroller’s office over the incumbent, Judy Baar Topinka, who has proven honest and competent. Minus issues of substance, Simon went on the attack, accusing Topinka of unethical behavior based on extremely weak allegations. The tactic was doomed to fail.

On the other hand, tone was a big part of why U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, who ran a positive campaign based on genuine accomplishments and policy positions, handily defeated Republican Jim Oberweis.

If Durbin set the example for how to campaign in a largely positive manner, then the voters of District 115, by making an example of Kilquist, set an example for the rest of the nation for how to react to an almost entirely negative one. Hopefully voters elsewhere will follow this district’s lead and make sure that when candidates dig for gold in the political mine of personal destruction, they will only hit full sewer lines, and smell like it after humiliating defeats.

Bob Moses: Freedom Summer Architect Comes to SIU (Part II)... A Train Leaves Boston

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Bob Moses: Freedom Summer Architect Comes to SIU (Part I)


Who:
What:
Where:
When:
Civil rights icon Bob Moses was in town to deliver a lecture, We the People: Constitutional Personho
Randall Auxier
Video Comentary

Civil rights icon Bob Moses was in town to deliver a lecture, We the People: Constitutional Personhood in Our Time, on Wednesday, and will remain in Carbondale through Thursday, November 14. With representative students from our region, two SIU graduate students, Naama Lewis, a Young People’s Project veteran from the Math Department (she has also been in the School of Education and Work Force Development); and Matthew Ryg, the president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council, who is a doctoral student in philosophy who researches Moses’s Algebra Project and other movements as forms of nonviolent social epistemology, have organized a Build a School Workshop for SIU students in the teacher-training phase of their undergraduate program. The workshop will produce facilitators for a community workshop that Moses will conduct on the SNCC model.

In much the same way that Moses’s efforts fifty years ago helped to produce the Voting Rights Act of 1965, his current subject aims at helping us redefine our Constitutional right to a quality education. In particular, Moses, through a program he created called the Algebra Project, posits that math literacy is an indispensible civil right.

You suffered though simultaneous equations in high school— if a train leaves from Boston and another from Chicago... and so on— but you might never have seen them as a sort of story, or narrative, at bottom. The examples in the textbooks don’t make for very interesting stories. That’s because the details were stripped away to reveal some of the patterns of order present in all such “stories.” If Kanye West is on the Boston train and Taylor Swift is on the Chicago train, and I ask you what time he interrupts her, it might make the story a little more interesting, but it doesn’t really change the math, you know? But the real problem is that it isn’t your story, especially if you’re a kid. So why should you care?

But what if I ask you: “Why is there a solution?” You might say, “Well, because the trains do meet, at some point.” Now I ask: “Would it be the same for any trains coming toward each other?” You become annoyed. “Duh.” “What about other objects?” I press, “planes, asteroids, crawling babies?” “Sure, anything that moves from one place to another.” And now I have you. “Then math is everywhere?”

Yes, it’s everywhere. All narratives, all stories, all motions, in fact, all changes, can be described with mathematics, because all time-processes have that kind of order. In fact, your ability to understand a story, to follow it, including this one, depends on this kind of order. Remember that for a few minutes.

Late in 1964, Bob Moses resigned his leadership role in the Coalition of Federated Organizations— a group that coordinated the alphabet soup of civil-rights organizations: SCLC, SNCC, CORE, NAACP, and numerous others. He resigned because his role had become “too strong, too central, so that people who did not need to began to lean on me, to use me as a crutch,” as he told Clayborne Carson. He also had been through a disillusioning struggle following Freedom Summer.

As President Lyndon Johnson escalated the war in Vietnam, Moses was also one of the first to oppose it publicly, in keeping with his pacifism and everything else he ever stood for. The political fallout for SNCC and the other civil-rights organizations he served was, well, let’s just say they didn’t want to debate the morality of war at that point in history.

Moses was by this time an important public figure and easy to recognize, so he took off his overalls and went by “Robert Parris,” using his middle name for a time to give everyone involved some space. Thus altered, he pressed forward against the war. But in 1965, his voice of sanity had come too early. Somehow, although he was thirty-one years old and married, Moses was drafted into the military— and anyone who thinks that was a matter of chance needs a lesson in probability. So Moses went to Canada, but he also visited Africa that year. He came to be persuaded that black people needed to solve their own problems. As the assassinations of 1968 unfolded, Moses had strong reasons to believe there was a target painted on his back.

So Moses broke all ties with everyone he knew and moved to Tanzania, without telling a soul where he had gone or why. Although this was a source of worry and consternation to those who knew and loved him, the move enabled Moses to solve problems of post-colonial recovery with black people. Between 1969 and 1976, Moses taught math in his new home, serving most of that time in the Tanzanian Ministry of Education. Jimmy Carter extended amnesty to Vietnam-era draft resistors in January 1977 and Moses could come home, if he chose to. He had been considering finishing his doctorate. So Moses returned to the United States with his family, took up residence near Harvard, and resumed his academic work.

Before he was finished, however, the MacArthur Foundation tapped Moses with a genius grant, that most elusive and prized of intellectual acknowledgements for work well done. You can’t apply for it— the Foundation finds you (well, probably not you and not me, but deserving geniuses), providing four years and a bunch of money to do whatever you want to do, no strings attached. Moses had noticed that even in Cambridge, the very seat of learning in America, school children, including his own, were getting inferior math education. In his many years as a math teacher, Moses had made a connection that few people recognized: People who aren’t in command of numbers aren’t really in command of their own lives. He had also come to the conviction in Tanzania that education is a civil right, not a privilege.

Moses used the genius grant to launch the Algebra Project— and that is when the train really left Boston. Its path to Chicago still involved many variables, but it arrived there in 1991. It has also arrived in Jackson, Mississippi, and New York and New Orleans, and Los Angeles and San Francisco— and even Eldorado in Southern Illinois. It might be the most far-reaching use ever made of a genius grant.

Moses’s idea is this: What would happen if communities became decisively aware that the education their children were receiving, especially in math, was inferior? If it were presented to them as a civil right, like voting, would they demand something different, something better, as their right? In much the way that black people in Mississippi had been told for a hundred years they were second-class, that they deserved their lower economic and political standing, that they were unfit for anything higher or better, African American and other poor populations of this country, both rural and urban, had been told they couldn’t learn math and warranted no better education than they received. Just as Moses showed up in Mississippi in 1960 with a registration pad and a plan, here he was twenty-five years later, wielding a new plan and a new idea in civil rights.

And Moses does know something, after all, about organizing people whose lives have been pilfered by the powers and the privileged. Following Ella Baker, as he still does, Moses believes that reform in math education doesn’t come from talking heads, school boards, state education commissions, or the U.S. Department of Education deciding to do things one way rather than another, scrapping the latest greatest big theory, scrapping with each other politically, while local schools are scrounging for tax support. Meaningful change happens through organizing the people whose quality of life depends on learning what they need to know.

Thus the Algebra Project aims at the most disadvantaged children of all, whether urban or rural, beginning with grassroots organizing. Only when people take charge of their own communities, and along with them their schools, will things begin to improve in sustainable ways. And indeed, it is the young people who must lead, Moses still believes, because those are the people with the ideas, with the needs, with the greatest stake, and they are the ones who haven’t yet been convinced that nothing can be done. This is the approach that worked for SNCC and other organizations that followed Ella Baker’s vision during the civil-rights era.

The Algebra Project is labor-intensive to implement, since it is no mere curriculum but a community-wide effort. But then again, it wasn’t exactly easy to turn voting rights around in Mississippi, either.

The Algebra Project and its affiliate programs have shown excellent results during thirty years of experimentation, growth, and expansion across the country. This is the mathematics of liberation, of community empowerment.

The good jobs, the high-status positions in a technological society, go to those who command numbers. The key to changing math-phobia and decades of lies about the mathematical ability of the people at the economic bottom lies first with them, and then with community leaders who can respond with listening ears and open minds.

There is an intimate connection to SIU with all of this wonderful activity. Moses’s son Omo and his daughter Maisha have been active with the Algebra Project from the beginning, especially in what is called the Young People’s Project, which is to the Algebra Project what SNCC was to the civil-rights movement: It’s the toughest kind of grassroots, pavement-pounding, door-knocking, afterschool bad-neighborhood organizing you can imagine. Maisha and Omo turned out to be a lot like their father: very difficult-to-discourage brave souls, and committed servants of hungry communities.

When Maisha decided to pursue math in graduate school, she chose SIU. That wasn’t an accident. When Bob Moses’s book Radical Equations appeared in 2001, SIU math professor Greg Budzban invited Moses to speak at SIU. During the visit a conversation developed between Budzban and Moses about algebra (which is Budzban’s specialty). The phone began ringing back and forth between our place and theirs. Various faculty at SIU in the Math Department and the Math-Education program began to become involved. Moses and Budzban wrote a National Science Foundation grant. That grant and others have resulted in the development of a full range of courses, experimented with, refined, honed, and applied in several places. Maisha finished her work at SIU several years ago, but the collaboration has continued.

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