MACOMB — Constituents from Western Illinois University met with state legislators on Student Advocacy Day on April 11 in Springfield.
The WIU Student Government Association (SGA) sponsored a trip for students from the university to the state’s capitol.
During a regular meeting of the student legislative body on Tuesday, SGA President Grant Reed gave an update from Student Advocacy Day for those who were not able to attend.
Reed said, “During our first event of the day, we met with Senator (Jil) Tracy and Representative (Norine) Hammond who are local representatives. We sat down with them for a legislative panel.”
Reed notes from the meeting included discussion of a bill currently going through the house and the senate for funding deferred maintenance.
“Deferred maintenance includes all of the things at WIU that we should have been updating like leaking ceilings, tiles and buildings that are deteriorating and for much needed improvements here on campus,” Reed said.
The SGA president also said that state legislators are advocating for a “steady and constant revenue stream to help out higher education institutions with the projects they need to get accomplished, to still be able to function at the capacity they need to function at.”
Reed went on to say state legislators are considering a move towards an evidence-based funding model, and they’re going to reevaluate Illinois teacher certification because the requirements for certification are much more stringent than in neighboring states such as Iowa and Missouri.
Higher requirements for teacher certification are one more reason why the students are migrating out of Illinois.
Included in Reed’s report are other Illinois issues such as the debate over flat versus graduated taxes, and employment opportunities for vocational training for workforce preparedness highlighting the labor shortage experienced by manufacturing employers in the state.
In other matters, the SGA voted to table Bill of Resolution 2017-2018.009, which is legislation advocating for student academic freedom at Western Illinois University. The bill was authored by SGA Senator Amanda Wrenn.
The bill reads, “Academic freedom for teachers and students alike are basic and fundamental concepts in a formal learning environment” and defines student academic freedom as: freedom in learning, freedom in the search for truth and freedom from unpredictable, irrelevant, or unreasonably subjective evaluation criteria, belonging to individuals enrolled in a course, or multiple courses, at institutions of higher learning.”
There was discussion as to how the definition was formulated, to which Senator Wrenn said, “It’s a proposed definition crafted by senators. So, it was inspired by various sources, but myself and other senators worked together to come up with this definition.”
Wrenn went on to say that there is ongoing discussion between her and instructors for the purposes of forming a committee to use a consensus-based decision making process to work jointly on the issues of students’ rights.
Among the voices encouraging a tabling of the bill was Board of Trustees student representative Wil Gradle, who suggested presenting the resolution as a bill directed towards administration to include student academic freedom as a formal definition as opposed to a definition without an endorsement from administrators.
“I would encourage people to table this bill so there is time to rework it, maybe refocus it so that it is appropriately targeted to the correct passage that we’re trying to put in this definition and folks that can make it happen,” Gradle said.
Following adjournment of the SGA, student senator Wrenn expressed to the Voice her opinion on the decision to table her proposed piece of legislation.
She said, “Based on what they said, I understood the outcome, and it’s not what I expected – and it’s not what I hoped for. But I do understand they want more voices on it. I guess I am just a little frustrated that I did send this bill out quite a while ago to all (student) senators, and everybody on the executive branch (which includes Present Grant Reed), and I didn’t get this kind of feedback then.”
“So, the feedback is just coming now when I finally proposed the bill rather than when I was specifically asking for feedback,” Wrenn said. “It is what it is, and I’ll work with it.”

Reach Christopher Ginn by email at cginn@mcdonoughvoice.com.