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Mitchell: Chicago State University shouldn’t have to beg

Chicago State University announced 300 layoffs on Friday. | AP file photo

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“Them that’s got shall get

Them that’s not shall lose

So the Bible said and it still is news”

Billie Holiday, 1942

The Springfield debacle should be a real eye-opener for African-Americans.

The budget stalemate caught us like deer in the headlights.

While every vulnerable population in the state is suffering because the state’s elected officials are locked in a battle over power, African-Americans are catching hell.

Obviously, voters can take their frustrations out at the polls on March 15.

But we’ve been doing that since the Voting Rights Act passed, and still, too little has changed for the urban masses.

Now, higher education — a critical ladder to the middle class — is under attack.

Most of us already know elected officials will do just about anything to hold onto power.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of millions of dollars for higher education, but the House failed to pass the measure.

The financial crisis at Chicago State University, however, also exposes the black community’s folly of depending on a political system that cannot be trusted to serve the interests of African-Americans.

For instance, over the last seven years, state funding for CSU has been cut $6.5 million a year. State funding for higher education overall has been cut $1.2 billion over the last 10 years, according to stats compiled by the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

This failure to invest in higher education in Illinois existed long before Rauner took office, and Democrats didn’t say a mumbling word.

Although much of the outrage over the lack of funding has focused on the plight of Chicago State University, which has said it could potentially lay off 900 staffers. And Northeastern Illinois University isn’t far behind. It has already sent out potential furlough notices.

But because CSU, a university that primarily serves African-American and nontraditional students, doesn’t get big endowments, it could be the first to shut down.

OPINION

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Nearly a third of Chicago State University’s funding, $36 million a year, comes from state appropriations. Most of the 4,000 students depend on the MAP grants and state-funded merit scholarships.

So while other universities can use hefty endowments like a life jacket, CSU is in danger of drowning.

The peril is a wake-up call for the school’s alums.

Despite being called a “historically black” university, CSU is not part of the HBCU network.

If that were the case, personalities such Tom Joyner, the popular radio personality and a champion of HBCUs, and TV personality Steve Harvey, would have stepped up.

Instead, students and staff at the school are at the mercy of the state’s whims.

“We are totally dependent. Our students are begging. They are trying to keep up and balance their workload with home and family, and we are just trying to keep their hope and morale up, but this is totally out of our hands,” said Kim Dulaney, a CSU professor.

Rauner’s early criticism of CSU’s credentials and staff was particularly discouraging.

“We have to prove we are good enough. I am offended that we get to pay taxes, and we are supposed to be helping people and we have to beg for money,” Dulaney said.

“But it is a new political day. All of these things that we were assured of are under attack. As black people, we have to rethink how we do business,” she said.

That’s the truth. Just think Donald Trump.

Fortunately, this crisis is an opportunity for all CSU alums to pay it forward.

Obviously, the fundraising would be symbolic. But as the saying goes, “when you know better, you do better.”

There are too many successful African-Americans in this city for us to let Chicago State University close its doors.

“Mama may have

Papa may have

But God bless the child that’s got his own.”

Billie Holiday, 1942

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