Illinois budget crisis forces professors to incur state-covered expenses

Amid an ongoing budget crisis in the State of Illinois, Northern Illinois University faculty members are feeling the effects of the state’s economic hardships.

Various state employees have been impacted by the budget impasse, including NIU faculty members who have been saddled with the burdens of a lack of available funds.

In cost cutting efforts, some faculty have parted with their office telephones and have been required to give up their office printers, instead sharing a communal printer with the other faculty for each department.

“The biggest effect the budget crisis has had is we’ve all had to make sacrifices … we’ve been asked to give up our telephones, we’ve been asked to give up our individual printers and of course there is no travel money for state employees for conference travel,” said Betty La France, NIU department of communication professor.

Each of these cost-cutting procedures have been implemented to save as much money for the university as possible.

Another byproduct of this ongoing budget crisis is that some faculty members are being asked to pay for medical expenses up front, when visiting a doctor or dentist, due to fears that the state of Illinois will not reimburse these medical expenses, according to La France.

While giving up her office phone – thus having to use her personal cell phone for business calls – and deciding whether she wants to pay for conference travel are both expenses she is now saddled with, she says these pale in comparison to an even bigger expense she’s being burdened with, as a result of the budget crisis.

“The biggest financial transfer of burden has been the insurance issue, because even though I pay a monthly premium for my spouse and I, I have been asked by two different doctors and a dentist to pay cash out of pocket for an office visit,” La France said. “So that means I’m both a cash paying customer at that moment, and an insurance customer because of course I’ve paid my monthly premium.”

La France says that state reimbursement is either slow or not happening at all, depending on what health care plan each individual has. When reimbursements are made, it could be between 15 to 18 months, La France said.

Another professor, Katy Cady, NIU department of communication professor, shares her thoughts on this issue here:

“Something has to be done,” La France said. “We have to get a budget. The budget has to recognize the mission of a state university.”

To share your thoughts on this story, contact Governor Bruce Rauner here.

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Donald Trump’s Twitter page vs. the world


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While Twitter is a useful platform for sharing and disseminating information, it can also be a dangerous tool. While one wouldn’t normally equate Twitter with the word “dangerous,” in the wrong hands, it can certainly be a dangerous tool. President Donald Trump is the living embodiment of this fact.

Scrolling through the president’s Twitter feed, one cannot help but notice his tendency to frequently insult individuals, groups of people, foreign leaders or entire countries through his various Tweets.

This has the potential to be dangerous when the president takes to his Twitter page to air his grievances with foreign leaders. For example, President Trump took a swing at Canada for making “business for our dairy farmers in Wisconsin and other border states very difficult,” according to his April 25 Tweet. He went on to say that “We will not stand for this,” and delivered a vague threat of “watch!”.

Picking a fight, on Twitter no less, with a U.S. ally seems like another ill-advised move in what has become a long list of ill-advised moves since the president took the oath of office.

While transparency is important in any administration, it would be advisable for the president to use better judgement when making such statement via Twitter, which have the potential to start unnecessary conflicts.

 

 

updated 5/7/17 

 

Low voter turnout hinders democracy

Despite investing money and resources into recent congressional elections in heavily Republican districts in Kansas and Georgia, Democrats were not able to pull out wins in the respective elections.

While Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff did win a majority of the votes, he did not garner enough votes to avoid a run-off election in June.

Despite claims to the contrary by Bernie Sanders, Democrats did invest resources into the Kansas race in an attempt to gain a congressional seat long held by Republicans.

“The local Democrats, despite Bernie saying that they didn’t get out enough to support their candidate, were paying $12.50 an hour to canvassers,” said Edward Bowie, chairman of NIU College Republicans. “The Democrats were bussing in people from all sorts of places out of state for this race, they had all kinds of help, they worked themselves nearly to death and they couldn’t even approach 45 [percent of the vote].”

A major obstacle preventing Democrats from winning that seat is a problem that continues to linger over all state and national elections in the United States: low voter turnout.

In the 2016 general election, only 60.2 percent of registered voters cast a ballot, according to figures on United States Elections Project’s website. While that figure is up from the 58.6 percent who voted in 2012’s general election, those numbers are still well below the voting statistics of neighboring countries.

Canada, for example, had a 68.3 percent voter turnout in their 2015 federal elections, according to the Elections Canada website.

Midterm elections voter turnout in the U.S. is even worse, with only a 36.7 percent voter turnout rate in 2014, according to the United States Elections Project’s website.

Regardless of party affiliation, all citizens should be involved in the voting process, both for general elections and during midterm elections.

It is our civic duty to partake in every election. It is also the most productive way to enact real change in our government. Get informed and get out on election day and make your voices heard. 

Women vs. Men: The ever-present double standard

 

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A flippant — and offensive — comment by conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly once again shines a light on the differences in how men and women continue to be treated.

During a Mar. 28 interview on Fox & Friends, political commentator Bill O’Reilly reacted to a news item regarding California Representative Maxine Waters by saying he had a hard time hearing anything she was saying, because all he could focus on was her “James Brown wig,” according to transcripts of the Mar. 28 interview.

Waters, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives since January 1991, later said she would not be intimidated by O’Reilly, according to her Mar. 28 interview on MSNBC’s All in with Chris Hayes.

O’Reilly’s comments highlight the work that still needs to be done in regards to gender equality. While men tend to be judged based on their words and actions, as should be the case, women still deal with unnecessary comments like these on their personal appearance.

Dismissing somebody’s comments and instead focusing on their appearance is disturbing. Yet, unlike men, women continue to face such comments on a regular basis.

While O’Reilly’s comments eventually cost him his job at Fox News, the fight for equality did not end with his dismissal. The fight for equality continues…

 

(Updated 5/1/17)

Action Steps for America encourages constituent involvement

While many people are feeling disenfranchised with everything we’re seeing from our government these days, some are not sure how to channel their frustrations. Instead of sitting idly by, DeKalb resident Sarah Moses opted to take action. This is how Action Steps for America in DeKalb was born.

“The main goal is helping people learn how to contact their representatives to let them know how they feel about issues so [our representatives] have a good feel for what their constituents want,” said Moses.

Moses says the most important way to influence policies is to be in contact with the representative for your district, both the House representative for your district and your senators.

Corporations vs. Constituents

While there are many important issues that currently need to be addressed, including education and environmental issues, Moses cites one in particular she’d like to see action on.

“I personally think the most important thing to do is to get money out of politics, so campaign finance reform,” said Moses. “Because if these senators and congress people don’t have campaign donors that are giving them tons of money for their campaigns, then they don’t have to vote based on what corporations want, they can vote based on what the constituents want.”

Get Informed and Get Involved

Nationwide, we’ve seen a mobilization of the masses at various town halls. For Moses, there is a simple criteria to define success for Action Steps for America, something she’d like to see to see from both local and national constituents.

“I would like to see people involved in government and I would like to see people understanding how policies directly affect their daily lives,” said Moses. “I would like people to be aware of what their congress person is doing…and making their voice heard on a regular basis so we have true representation of the majority of America.”

To find your elected officials, click here.

 

(UPDATED 5/8/17)

Democracy vs. Dictatorship

During a Feb. 12 interview with CBS’s Face the Nation, while discussing the fallout from President Trump’s travel ban, President Trump’s senior policy advisor Stephen Miller made a startling statement.

“…our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned,” said Miller.

While no one is questioning that the president has “substantial” powers, the “will not be questioned” part of that statement is concerning.

Miller is incorrect. We need both the media and fellow citizens to take an active role in holding our public officials accountable. Yes, the president SHOULD be questioned. All of our elected officials should.

Just this morning, President Trump accused former President Obama of wiretapping Trump’s phones at Trump Tower last year, according to Trump’s Mar. 4 tweets. These are damning allegations, yet President Trump offered no proof to corroborate these claims. This is a perfect example of why the president NEEDS to be questioned.

The ability to question our leaders is what separates a democracy from a dictatorship.

Exercise your democratic right and make your voices heard by contacting the White House directly at https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact.

 

(updated 4/10/17)

Welcome to my blog! Get empowered…

There are many local and national issues that affect you and me. Let’s discuss these issues here. What can you do to make a difference? Are you wanting to take action but unsure of how to do so? Unsure of who to contact? If so, you’ve come to the right place. I want to empower people with the necessary knowledge to take action.

Bernie spoke of starting a political revolution. The first step in starting a revolution is to get informed on the issues.

And while protests are successful in getting people to take notice, protests aren’t enough to get those in power to take action. To effect real change, the power ultimately lies with the people.

Get informed. Get empowered. Get involved. Welcome to my blog. Let’s start the conversation now…

 

(UPDATED 3/8/17)