One of my favorite walking paths on the Campus of Southern Illinois University is the path around the Campus Lake. Even though I have traversed the well worn trails for many years…yet they constantly seem new to me. I am struck with the paradox that has happened many times before and once again is occurring. The Sate of Illinois is in an abysmal budgetary mess. This has happened primarily do to the poor management and oversight of previous and current governors and legislatures. Although extreme budget cuts have been transpiring since the latter 1980s until the present, the latest proposal by new governor Rauner is a draconian cut in excess of 30% for the SIU Carbondale Campus. This unconscionable proposal, should it be endorsed by the legislature, will leave such gaping holes in the quality of education that students receive, and the support systems in place to ensure that quality, that the deterioration of the continued academic viability of the University will become a forgone conclusion.
Southern Illinois University, in days gone by, was often referred to as the second jewel in the crown of Illinois. The first jewel in the crown was the University of Illinois. In 1948 Southern Illinois Normal welcomed a new president Delyte Morris. Dr. Morris transformed what was a small teacher’s college into an internationally respected University with a campus at Edwardsville, Illinois, a Medical School at Springfield, a Dental School at Alton, and a School of Law on the Carbondale Campus. His plan for vitality and growth included reaching out in the very impoverished southern Illinois region to people who had not been thought of as candidates for a college degree, and causing blue collar families and farming families to send their first generation children to SIU. This happened while at the same time students from over seventy nations attended the beautiful rural Carbondale Campus. SIU became a miracle of academic growth and quality and fulfilled the vision of a college education for everyone who sought it…and not just the privileged elites. This vision exemplified by the G. I. Bill and the strength of character of former statesmen of the past was seen as nothing less than the key to the future success of our nation.
The spring fever that is two fold is first the extreme thoughtless budget cuts brought forward by our elected leaders…with no rationale thought as to the outcome coupled with the paralyzing fear in the hearts of students, faculty, and staff as to their academic and financial well being. While the second example of spring fever on the Campus is much more settled and unchanging…that being the beauty of nature on an exquisite Campus.
As I have written in an earlier blog Dr. Morris was as concerned about the beauty of the natural surrounding of SIU Carbondale as he was about it’s academic strength. SIU’s spring beauty illustrates the optimism of a famous campus that was built where no one thought it could exist and the cycles of that natural beauty are not subject to the political whims or hidden agendas of fickle politicians.