April 21, 2016

BY JOHN D. HOMAN
Logan Media Services

SPRINGFIELD – They weren’t carrying signs or chanting catchy phrases like other groups in attendance, but John A. Logan College students were not the least bit shy about asking some tough questions of their legislative leaders in Springfield Wednesday as part of Illinois Student Advocacy Day.

Thirty-five students and four staffers made the trek north to the Capitol building. For the better part of three hours, they waited their turn to speak with four of Southern Illinois’ most recognized legislators: Sens. Gary Forby (D-Benton) and Dave Luechtefeld (R-Okawville), as well as State Reps. John Bradley (D-Marion) and Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro).

To their credit, each legislator took time out of their busy schedule to address the students’ concerns. And it should be noted that Bradley and Bryant’s offices paid for the Logan bus trip at the request of former student trustee, Brandi Husch. It was also Husch who arranged the meetings with the legislators.

“I found today’s trip to be quite informative,” said Zach O’Hagan of Carbondale. “It gave me an idea of how much the state is struggling with finances.”

Current student trustee, Christine Lipe, said going to Springfield and meeting with Southern Illinois’ legislative leaders was a “positive experience and a great opportunity” for students to learn.

“We were able to give our views on the budget and let them know how a lack of budget had resulted in layoffs to teachers and staff.”

Political science professor and department chair, Jane Bryant, said visiting Springfield was a “great experience” for students as they got to meet with leaders face-to-face and get answers to many of their questions.”

Bryant also quite unexpectedly and accidentally got to meet Gov. Bruce Rauner.

“A group of students and I were about to go into the governor’s office when another group came out. I was told that he wasn’t in, but I wanted to leave a message with his staff anyway, so I walked in. As I was walking in, he came walking in, too, from the other direction. I shook his hand and introduced myself. I told him that work needed to be done to fix the budget and he said he was working on it.”

Political science professor Perry Knop said he could see many of the students looking a bit overwhelmed when seeing what business was like at the Capitol building.

“To see such organized chaos really opened their eyes,” Knop said. “I think it was important that we were there and I would like to think that what we said made an impact with our legislators. And it was amazing that Jane got to meet the governor.”

Adrienne Barkley Giffin is director for student and cultural events at Logan. She said she was proud of how students conducted themselves and how they participated in the democratic process.

“They stepped up. Most of them were a little out of their comfort zone, but they went for it anyway. What a great experience,” she said. “What I liked in particular was watching these students put into practice what they are learning in the classroom. I hope they made our faculty proud today, because they certainly made me proud.”