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On March 4th, 2010 several organizations on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus and people across the country gathered to “march forth” in a National Day of Action to Defend Public Education. At UIUC, more than 300 came together for a spirited rally on what turned out to be the first sunny day of the new Spring.
The march began at the Alma Mater statue with a dedication to the Native American peoples who “granted” the land on which this land grant university was built. Miriam Larson led a modern-day adaptation of the classic Woody Guthrie song: “This land is your land, This land is my land, From Illinois to California, From Minnesota to Arizona, Land grants were made for you and me!”
Since the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) won its two-day strike in November 2009, the number of those who have seen the usefulness of mass action has grown significantly. A group calling itself the UC United Coalition has formed to address the current assault on public education. The crowd of people they were able to turn out included graduate students from the GEO, professors from the Campus Faculty Association (CFA), students from La Collectiva, students from the Undergraduate-Graduate Alliance, and union members from SEIU and AFSCME.
As they walked around the quad, the marchers chanted slogans: “One, Two, Three, Four. We Know What We’re Out Here For! Five, Six, Seven, Eight. Pay Up Springfield, We Can’t Wait.” “Money for Education, Not Administration!” “They Say Furlough, We Say Hell No!”
When they arrived at the Swanlund Administration Building, where the Chancellor’s office is located, the marchers held a large rally on the front steps. Among speakers was Margaret Lewis from AFSCME , who criticized the failure of the UIUC administration, “It isn’t just the current financial problem. It is the mentality of the administration and the corporatization of the university.” Pointing up at Swanlund, she said, “If there is an ivory tower on this campus, this is where it’s located.”
The SEIU’s Gloria Van Buren of SEIU, a second generation service worker on campus, pointed out that the rising costs of tuition have not been used to pay workers. “You guys paid the rate hikes,” she said, “but we haven’t seen that money in over four years.”
Susan Davis, CFA Executive Committee member and Professor in the Department of Communication, said that the University of Illinois administration’s policy “places the burden of the current budget shortfall on personnel and students.”
Addressing the crowd, Peter Campbell, communications officer for the GEO, cited Southern Illinois University’s President Glenn Poshard who told a local newspaper, “financial troubles have been on the backs of middle to low income families too long.”
The UC United Coalition is planning to go to Springfield on April 21 to lobby state officials to avoid further cuts and save the future of public education.
For a list of myths and facts about the budget crisis compiled by the GEO go to:
For coverage in the local mainstream media go to: