Monday, March 7, 2016

“Here’s what it’s like to live in the shadow of a Big Ten school”

The University of Illinois today announced the hiring of a new football coach. In such circumstances, our local news outlet (“Your News Leader”) turns into a muzzy cheer squad. “Crazy!” said the anchor. The first twelve minutes of tonight’s hour-long newscast were devoted to the hiring, with more coverage promised later in the hour.

Also today, Illinois governor Bruce Rauner appeared in two nearby towns “to hear [our] concerns” and stump for congressional candidate John Shimkus (who in 2014 described Rauner as someone who “can make the trains run on time”). At the first of these events, a journalist (a former student of mine) was denied entry. Citizens pressing for a resolution to the state’s budget crisis were also denied entry. I don’t know what happened at the second event. Our local news outlet covered neither event.

The school where I spent thirty years as a professor of English is down the road a ways from the University of Illinois, in more ways than one. My school is not a Big Ten school, not a Research I school. It’s what’s called a “teaching university”: students are the faculty’s first priority. My school is small and scrappy and chronically underfunded. And now, in the absence of a state budget, hundreds of employees have lost or will soon lose their jobs. None of that made tonight’s news either.

The U of I’s new coach has a six-year contract that will pay him twenty-one million dollars. Even the reporter explaining the contract’s details seemed to understand the unseemliness of that kind of money, noting that it comes not from the university budget but from “athletics.”

A new bill to fund Illinois state schools asks for forty million dollars for the state’s community colleges. One football coach equals about half that. As someone recently asked, “Where are our priorities?”

[Post title in the manner of The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd .]

comments: 2

Elaine said...

Well, that's just heart-breaking. I haven't any words, nor any wisdom, to bring to this state of affairs.
It's crazy.
History will judge us, even those of us who are not guilty and who strenuously protested for change.
That rankles.

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for your good thoughts, Elaine. If, when I began teaching, anyone had told me that Illinois public higher education would be in the shape it’s now in, I would not have believed it.