SGA AND CSI LEAD CAMPAIGN FOR SCHOOL FUNDING

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The Student Government Association partnered with the Center for Student Involvement for a letter writing campaign in support of greater funding of Illinois’ Monetary Award Program (MAP) on Monday, January 30.

Dominic Gwinn
By Staff Writer
from Roosevelt Torch

Students, faculty and staff were encouraged to address their legislators to stress their personal need for access to affordable higher education institutions that are made possible through programs like MAP. The state funded grant to public and private colleges has seen as a point of contention between educators and lawmakers due to legislative gridlock in the state capitol.

“I think it’s a really great way to show that this is personal,” said Roosevelt SGA President Nathan Stoll. “When you see a handwritten letter that someone took a moment of their life to put into reality, and then send out, it’s impactful.”

MAP grants often affect the neediest students the most as much of the grant will cover books and tuition, however, the first-come, first-serve nature of the program has a tendency to leave students without a higher education.

Abril De La Paz, a 26 year-old biochemistry major, participated in the previous years campaign, and was encouraged to do so again.

“Some of my classmates really need the funding, said De La Paz. “They’re hurting really bad right now. Some of them can’t get their books, and a few people can’t even go to school. I’m really lucky to have it, so I’m going to write again.”

The campaign comes as lawmakers in Springfield continue to debate over a mountain of unpaid bills totalling around $11 billion. The majority of state services have continued to function, though largely by through a tangled web of laws, court orders, and spending agreements with varying interest rates. Illinois currently operates on the framework of its last completed budget from 2014, but without the tax increase instituted in 2011.

“I see that students are struggling everyday,” said Assistant Director of CSI Chris Littrell. “We have students come in saying, ‘I can’t afford to pay tuition,’ or, ‘I can’t buy books,’ and it’s difficult to know that there’s money that has been promised to them at one point, that has existed. It’s just not being given to the universities.”

On February 8, SGA and the Office of Government Relations will with students to Springfield to rally ahead of Governor Rauner’s State of the State address where they will be joined by students from multiple universities in calling for greater access to funding for colleges and universities. Students interested should contact SGA, or CSI.

INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS DISCUSS ELECTIONS OVERSEAS

 

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Danial Aziaz Khan talks about Pakistan elections. Photo by Dominic Gwinn.

By Dominic Gwinn
Staff Reporter
from Roosevelt Torch

On Thursday, November 3, Students from Roosevelt’s International Student Association, in conjunction with the International Studies Program, held a series of lectures discussing the differences in elections throughout the world. Moderated by Roosevelt professor of political science and international studies Phillip Hultquist, the student-led panel detailed election methodologies in Pakistan, India, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as some of the problems faced by citizens of those countries in their own unique electoral processes.

With the intent of bridging cultural divides, students talked about the structures of their governments, the differences in voting procedures, as well as some of the challenges faced in conducting elections.

“The student presenters did a great job of showing how elections work in their countries,” said Hultquist. “They highlighted some troubling aspects for democratic norms, such as undue influence from the military, corruption, and political dynasties…You know it’s a good event when you have to cut off discussion to stay on time or when people stick around after the presentations are over to keep talking about the issues.”

Bernice Kasongo, an 18, year-old Biochemistry student from the Democratic Republic of Congo, spoke earnestly her country, and found insight in how other others, despite their cultures differences, deal with local elections, political corruption and the disillusionment with the political process.

“It was good to hear about the elections from people that have no interest in lying about it,” said Kasango. “They told us the truth about how elections actually go even if the process was unfair sometimes due to corruption.”

Kasango explained that in many countries democracy is hard to achieve due to dictators or disaffected citizens who feel that they have no say in their countries. “I feel that it was important for students to know how elections go outside of the U.S because they can realize that it is important to vote,” Kasango said. “Statistics show that people of the age of 18-35 are the ones that vote less. So, we wanted to show them how important it is to vote because some people do not even have that opportunity.”

Samawi “Sam” Al Helli, a 29 year-old student from Iraq working towards his Masters in computer science, spoke about Iraqi elections and urged students about the importance of voting.

“…The whole point of the event is sharing with [students] how elections work overseas and comparing it to how it works here in America, and how important it’s even if it was one single vote. It can make a difference. No vote goes in vain even if the candidate you voted for didn’t win.”

ROOSEVELT HOSTS PRE-DEBATE POLITICAL DISCUSSION

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Students at the pre-debate discussion. Photo by Dominic Gwinn

By Dominic Gwinn
Staff Reporter
from Roosevelt Torch

Before Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump faced off for their final debate, Roosevelt’s department of Women’s and Gender Studies hosted a discussion featuring the Chair of Roosevelt’s Political Science department, David Faris.

More than a dozen students attended the discussion moderated by Women’s and Gender Studies Director Marjorie Jolles, with topics being discussed ranging from third party candidates, the electoral college, gerrymandering, and the national popular vote initiative.

“I thought it was interesting,” said 20 year-old Rachel Hunter, an international student from the U.K. “You can only hear so much about it at home, but to really be here in America, I never realized how insane the process is for the American people. I feel like I’m much more prepared to talk about things now.”

Faris, supported by Jolles and Associate Professor of Political Science Bethany Barratt, helped students discuss the why certain states matter more than others during a presidential election, why some states are called, “red” or “blue,” as well as some of the topics that were never addressed in the previous debates, like climate change. The presidential electoral process and the Electoral College were also detailed for students unfamiliar with the inner workings of the presidential electoral process, as well a popular alternatives to the College, such as the National Popular Vote Initiative.

“I was honored to take part in the WGS pre-debate election discussion,” Faris commented to the Torch. “The students asked sharp, important questions, and we had a freewheeling, open-ended discussion that represents the best of what democracy has to offer. I also enjoyed meeting students from different majors, and the opportunity to chat with them about important issues. I had a blast.”

“We’re glad people came out to listen,” commented 21 year-old Anna McColgan, a senior in majoring in Social Justice. “It’s important to talk about these things.”

Chicago Protests Mayor, Police Violence

The following video was for Roosevelt University, and originally appeared in December, 2015

Chicago residents took to the streets in protest of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Police Department just hours after the Mayor addressed alderman in a special session in City Hall where he called for wide-ranging institutional reforms across Chicago.

Council progressives hold budget meetings to address city problems

The following story originally appeared in EXTRA News, a bi-lingual community newspaper in Chicago, IL, on Oct 8, 2015.

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Chicago Aldermen Arena, Spostato, Wagueskpack.
Photo by Dominic Gwinn

Over 60 people gathered at the Copernicus Center last week in Jefferson Park to discuss a number of controversial city finance issues.“We are friends; we are not foes here,” stated 38th Ward Ald. Nicholas Sposato to a packed crowd at the first of two budget meetings held by the Progressive Reform Caucus this past Thursday.

“What we’re doing is saying this can’t be a budget cycle where we just look at this year,” said 45th Ward Ald. John Arena. “We have to start looking at a five-year plan for our funding, our city, and not do this as a constant crisis where we have to figure out what we need to cut, or what we need to tax just to get through that one year.”

The caucus presented a number of reforms that challenge Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed budget that would see an increase in taxes on businesses and residents throughout the city in an attempt to pay off mounting debts to pensions and creditors. In March, the city’s bad bookkeeping caused downgrade in its credit rating by Moody’s Investor Service to Baa1, commonly known as “junk” status.

A large part of the caucus’s plan seeks to increase taxes on the most wealthy residents and large corporations. Proposals such as an alternative minimum tax on the central business district downtown, a “bad business fee” tax that would levy fines for businesses that pay less than a living wage, increased taxes on luxury goods such as furs and jewelry, as well as amnesty for penalties stemming from outstanding parking tickets, in an attempt to recover lost revenue, were met with applause.

Despite the warm reception for the proposals, some residents stressed even more stringent measures, such as Chicago resident Lisa Stringer, who called for a wage freeze on all city employees.

“I’m not saying to take pay cuts, but let’s freeze everybody’s pay right now until we get this figured out,” stressed Stringer. “I think there has to be some understanding that everybody has to have some skin in the game.”

Other residents urged aldermen that the mayor’s recent proposal to privatize 311 services was a bad idea, and that criticism against 311 operators had been misplaced.

“We as call takers know how to do our job, we just don’t have enough operators,” pleaded 311 operator Aline Coopwood. “We’re down to about 58 operators. I’ve worked two months straight without days off just to help out coworkers.”

“When you’re calling Chicago, you want to speak with someone that knows Chicago, that knows what’s going on, and can help you out with what’s going on,” Coopwood insisted. “If someone is in Japan or in California, how are they going to tell you what’s going on here?”

“It’s time for us to really get serious about looking for other ways to raise revenue. We need to fix our pension problems and make sure that our city budgets are smaller,” said 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack. “We’re also looking to reduce spending in ways that don’t hurt basic services and make sure that we have staff available to get the job done.”

Illinois is currently operating without a budget due to gridlock in Springfield, funding only the most critical programs, like Medicaid and schools, by a court order. As a result, many social welfare programs that would typically see support from the state, like childcare and assistance for undocumented immigrants, have been suspended until state legislators can reach a spending agreement.

“These are critical meetings,” Arena said. ”This is a big burden that we’re trying to resolve here. It’s all come to a head; we have to deal with this problem…We’re trying to find ways to alleviate the burden on the middle class and low-income families.”

This post is also available in: Spanish