CHARLESTON — Supporters of Eastern Illinois University have planned a rally later this week in support of a state appropriation to sustain the university. Layoff notices are going out to some 200 civil service employees.
What's being billed as a "EIU Support Rally" is scheduled for 4 pm Friday on the university's library Quad.
EIU, and the rest of public higher education in the state, has been operating since July 1 without a state appropriation. Democrats in the Legislature last spring sent Gov. Bruce Rauner an unbalanced state budget that he mostly vetoed, and there has been no action on funding for higher education since.
"EIU is a very important member of our community. A lot of people are directly dependent and indirectly dependent on the health of EIU to sustain the Coles County and regional counties economy," said Jonathan Blitz, president of the University Professionals of Illinois at Eastern. "And so this is an effort to try to get the community and the university community together to support higher ed funding so that EIU can, frankly, survive."
Without state money, Blitz said, "it's only a matter of time until universities start shutting down. Chicago State is talking about shutting down March 1st and other universities can't be far behind. The only university that can sustain this for any reasonable period of time is UIUC (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)."
On Jan. 25, EIU President David Glassman said that state government "is literally starving its public universities."
And he announced a number of budget-trimming efforts at the university, where 7,876 students are enrolled this spring.
"Beginning immediately, we will implement the actions of halting all non-instructional capital equipment purchases; delaying all deferred maintenance and repairs that are either unrelated to safety and security or already paid for; delaying all non-instructional capital projects; halting all non-instructional supply purchases without vice presidential approval; freezing employee-reimbursed travel with minimal exception such as for required federal or governmental purposes; and freezing all hiring that involves FY16 funding," Glassman said in a letter to the campus. "If an appropriation continues to be delayed further into the semester, we will need to temporarily and/or permanently lay off hundreds of non-instructional employees and mandate unpaid furlough days to others beginning in March."
Those 30-day layoff notices started going out this week, Blitz said.