Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Tuesday Post - Illinois Issues Year End edition

Well, as I usually try to make my big post of the week on Tuesdays, this week I found a bit of a challenge while scouring the news for more stuff to read. Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune has challenged us Illinois-based bloggers to find the Illinois stories we've been blogging. I'd like to highlight two that I've covered from downstate.

First, there was the decision earlier this year to eliminate the 183rd Fighter Wing from the Illinois Air National Guard and reduce the ANG presence at Capital Airport in Springfield to non-flying units only. I argued that the 183rd helped to provide necessary air coverage for national defense, while Mayor Tim Davlin argued on an economic basis and US Representative Ray LaHood provided a plethora of defenses. Sadly, the Base Realignment Committee is sending Springfield's fighter squadron packing to Indiana. The effect of the loss will be subtle, but the lack of hearing pairs of fighter aircraft taking off every morning over the city will make the city seem empty.

Second, there have been some notable academic fistfights in Illinois colleges. While my fellow blogger John Ruberry has been masterfully handling the story of fired DePaul professor Thomas Klocek and other DePaul issues of free speech, I've been watching my alma mater of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and its troubles in the History department and in troubles with race-preferential fellowship awards.

Earlier this year, Professor Jonathan Bean was accused of racist tendencies because of an optional reading assignment about the "Zebra killings" in the San Francisco area in the 1970s. Mind you, this was for a class on radical movements in the US in the 1960s and 1970s, so the article about black radicals forming a group to kill whites would be appropriate. Instead of refuting the article, Professor Bean's fellow faculty members and graduate students denounced him as a racist and attempted to shut him out of the dialogue at the school. Fortunately, Professor Bean had help from the Administration in the form of verbal on-record support and he returned to SIUC. There are still other internal issues to reckon with, so this case is not yet completely open and shut.

Shortly after that, attorneys from the US Department of Justice sent a series of legal correspondence to SIUC to announce that they would investigate race- and sex-based preferential treatment in handing out money through a series of contested fellowships. While no suit has been started as of yet, I hope that the DOJ and SIUC attorneys are working out something to resolve the issue amicably. Southern Illinois University has seen its share of troubles between slinging around charges of racism at professors for offering up an article for the class to defend or deny and preferential treatment from three publicly-funded fellowships. These two issues

Although these stories may not have been as important to Chicagoans as George Ryan's trial, Peotone's airport woes, Hired Trucks, or Rod Blagojevich's Very Important Hair/ troubles with questionable contract practices, the loss of an Air National Guard unit and troubles at a state university will affect Illinoisans in one way or another. With our luck, it'll be our checkbooks that get hit hardest. So here's to a Happy 2006; may we find our state in better condition for all next year.

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