February 2, 2016
By Mary Alice Maloney and Rich Bodee
In light of the recent budget stalemate in Illinois, Dominican University is proposing a Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant student advocacy plan that will hopefully catch the attention of legislators in Springfield. For the past 12 consecutive years, a group of Dominican students, faculty and staff have traveled to the state’s capital to lobby and show support for the ensured allocation of MAP grant funds. This year, MAP grant supporters have added extra steps and actions to a revamped advocacy plan in an attempt to convey the urgency of the lack of funding for students in higher education.
Political Science professor David Dolence, who has lobbied in Springfield with Dominican in support of the MAP grant for the past 7 years, is leading the effort this year along with Paul Simpson, John DeCostanza and the Student Government Association (SGA).
Professor Dolence expressed his frustrations with Illinois decision-makers.
“The state’s current financial situation is unprecedented,” said Dolence. “There’s no budget, there’s no mock budget, there’s nothing. It’s actually mind-blowing.”
Professor Dolence also explained the advocacy proposal that will be used in lobbying efforts this year. “We’re implementing a letter writing campaign that will allow individual student voices to be heard,” said Dolence.
Dominican will encourage students to send postcards and individualized letters in support of the MAP grant to their state representatives and senators before the group of Dominican advocates go to Springfield to participate in the statewide lobby day, a day planned by the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities.
Director of Financial Aid, Victoria Lamick, mirrored the sentiment that student voices are significant in the push to get the funding back behind the MAP grant.
“Students should be their own advocates and express the consequences they’ve been dealing with because of this issue,” said Lamick.
SGA President, Will Schuneman, is participating in the lobby day and wants to emphasize the importance of student participation.
“We would like to get a group of at least 100 students who are willing and able to let their voices be heard in the presence of the state’s leaders and legislators,” said Schuneman.
Schuneman plans to reach out to other student organizations on campus, like First in the Family, in order to build a strong coalition of Dominican students to lobby in Springfield.
When asked about his expectations for the lobby day Schuneman said, “I’m hopeful for it, but I’m also being realistic. Dominican is a small school, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still have impact. This whole situation is stupid and selfish on the state government’s end, and students in Illinois are hurting.”