Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Indoor, outdoor smoking ban on college campuses to go into effect

The rock group ZZ Top had difficulty complying with the smoke-free policy at the University of Illinois Springfield's Sangamon Auditorium when they performed there in October 2013. “Drummer Frank Beard lit up on stage and I said 'Frank!' and he said, 'Yeah, OK,' but he kept smoking, and I thought, 'Are you going to put it out or keep on smoking?’” said Sangamon Auditorium Director Robert Vaughn. “He just kept right on smoking. But he was drumming on stage, and I had the choice of either calling law enforcement and stop the show dead in its tracks or just let it go.”

The show went on, and despite the band's flagrant violation of the auditorium's smoke-free policy, patrons have generally been much more conscientious, smoking only in designated areas outside the auditorium. But will those same patrons keep coming to performances after Wednesday when smoking is no longer permitted, either indoors or out, on Illinois college campuses?

“I believe that our patrons will be cooperative in helping us to comply with the law,” Vaughn said. “There probably will be some people who feel that it is a more hostile environment than they want to get involved with for some events. There are always some who will object when you make changes. We may see some slight falloff of business as a result of this initially, but it's the right thing to do. I don't see it in the bottom line necessarily.”

Nowhere to go Provisions of the state of Illinois' Smoke Free Campus Act take effect Wednesday. Beginning that day, smoking on all state-supported college and university campuses in Illinois will be prohibited. There will be no designated smoking areas, and people on campus, whether students, faculty or visitors, will only be able to light up in private vehicles parked on or traveling through campus.

“The campus has sent out a variety of communications to alert faculty, staff, students, and the community in the past year” regarding the Smoke Free Campus Act, said UIS spokesman Derek Schnapp, who added the word is getting out through campus emails, the UIS website, social media, digital sign messages on campus, and information included with each ticket purchased for auditorium events.

Provisions of the Smoke Free Campus Act The Illinois Smoke Free Campus Act was signed Aug. 17, 2014, by former Gov. Pat Quinn. The act prohibits smoking on the campuses of all state-supported colleges and universities effective July 1, 2015, and applies to both indoor and outdoor spaces on campuses.

Exceptions to the law are made for smoking inside privately owned vehicles parked on or traveling through campus and certain activities allowed under the Federal American Indian Religious Freedom Act. Beginning July 1, 2016, smoking will no longer be allowed in vehicles either parked on or traveling through the University of Illinois Springfield campus.

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on June 29, 2015.

Read the entire article here.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Uninsured rate dropped 66 percent in Sangamon from 2013 to 2015, survey says

The share of Sangamon County adults who lack health insurance has dropped by two-thirds since 2013, according to the 2015 Sangamon County Citizen Survey.

The change appears to be directly tied to the Affordable Care Act's federally funded expansion of Medicaid eligibility and federal subsidies that can reduce the price of health insurance through Illinois' health insurance exchange, said Ashley Kirzinger, director of the Survey Research Office at the University of Illinois Springfield.

The county's uninsured rate dropped from 11.3 percent in 2013 — before the health care law's key provisions took effect in January 2014 — to 3.8 percent this year, meaning about 11,300 more people with insurance. "That's excellent news," said Dr. Jerry Kruse, CEO of SIU HealthCare, the multispecialty practice of doctors at Springfield's Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.

The survey, a scientific measure of community attitudes conducted by telephone with 576 people 18 and older from April 15 to May 18, showed a drop in uninsured rates similar to what has been found nationwide by the Gallup organization.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on June 26, 2015.

Read the entire article online.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Survey: Downtown Springfield growth important to all of Sangamon County

Sangamon County residents are continuing to put the area’s economic importance in downtown Springfield.

A citizens survey conducted through the University of Illinois-Springfield indicates that 86% of county residents think growing downtown Springfield is important to the whole county — up from 81% in the 2013 survey. UIS Survey Research Office director Ashley Kirzinger says more than one demographic believes growing downtown is especially true.

“One of the interesting aspects…is that we saw the largest increase among our African-American residents, as well as those living in more of the metro area of Springfield,” says Kirzinger.

Kirzinger says she doesn’t know what might have caused the increases.

“It might be just awareness of growing downtown Springfield,” Kirzinger says. “The UIS student housing and other construction projects have brought attention to that area. It may just be the national trend that we’re seeing, growing cities instead of suburban growth.”

The story was reported by WTAX radio on June 22, 2015.

Read the full article online

Monday, June 22, 2015

Susan Koch: Let's not give up on student housing downtown

The following is a portion of a letter to the editor written by UIS Chancellor Susan J. Koch. It was published on June 21, 2015 in The State Journal-Register.

"We're committed to downtown student housing because it will accelerate the growth of the university by providing an ideal new option for the hundreds of UIS graduate students completing internships in state government. We intend for the university to have a presence in the building, which will make UIS even more visible and productive in the heart of our city.

My colleagues and the students we serve know there is tremendous potential and need for development in downtown Springfield and that attractive housing, especially for young people, is an essential element of that potential. I appreciate Mayor Jim Langfelder's good-faith efforts to forge compromise to move this project forward. None of us can do that alone.

As chancellor of UIS, I remain committed to working with any and all community leaders to improve opportunities for our students to live, learn and work downtown. We stand ready to work creatively with all interested parties to achieve the mutually beneficial goal of a downtown housing project.

Let's not give up."

Read the full letter online

Symposium to address post-Lincoln racial issues

An upcoming three-day symposium at the University of Illinois Springfield will advance the concept of "counter-emancipation" following Abraham Lincoln's death as part of his legacy.

The fifth Wepner Symposium on the Lincoln Legacy and Contemporary Scholarship will discuss counter-emancipation's effects on contemporary racial inequality.

Matthew Holden Jr., the Wepner distinguished professor in political science at UIS, said the symposium, to be held Thursday through Saturday at UIS and at the Old State Capitol State Historic Site downtown, will provide a means of thinking carefully about what happened after Lincoln.

All presentations are free and open to the public.

The symposium was featured by The State Journal-Register on June 21, 2015.

Read the full article online

Thursday, June 18, 2015

UIS announces second Athletic Hall of Fame class

The University of Illinois Springfield’s second class of inductees for the Prairie Star Athletic Hall of Fame includes Dorothy Walsh-Ripka, Dominic Giacomini, Rick Wiegand, the 1988 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national champion men’s soccer team and Naomi Lynn and Bob Lynn.

The Hall of Fame induction is Oct. 17. The time and location will be announced later. An advisory committee of community members, UIS alumni, staff, faculty, athletic coaches and players choose the inductees.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on June 17, 2015.

Read the full article online

Friday, June 5, 2015

Sangamon Auditorium announces 2015-16 season

The one thing Sangamon Auditorium Director Bob Vaughn wants audiences to get out of the 2015-16 season is a sense of magic and wonder.

“I want that magic,” he said. “I want them to feel the magic that you can only get when you’re an audience member and you’re interacting with that artist on stage because you can’t get that on a flat screen.”

In fact, Sangamon Auditorium audiences can look forward to actual magic this season. On Oct. 13, the Illusionists from Broadway are coming to the stage in Springfield. Each magician has a specialty. Vaughn predicts it’s going to be one of the biggest draws for people this season.

“They’re going to be huge as people learn about them,” he said. “Once they become more widely known and people get the opportunity to see what they’ll do … the producers think that we’ll probably go back and add another show.”

The season was highlighted by The State Journal-Register on June 4, 2015.

Read the article online

Monday, June 1, 2015

Bill headed to governor would test e-learning on snow days

Snow days — those short, unexpected respites from school that students always hope for — could be shoveled away if Gov. Bruce Rauner signs a bill the Illinois legislature passed in the waning days of its spring session.

House Bill 2781 would create a three-year pilot program giving up to three school districts the option of eliminating snow days in favor of online learning.

"This is something that has been enacted in a number of states, mostly in the north, including Minnesota and Ohio," said Ray Schroeder, vice chancellor for online learning University of Illinois Springfield. "Many states looking at how they can avoid tacking on snow days at the end of the year."

Schroeder said teachers usually have concluded their planned curriculum by the end of the regular school year.

"When the students come back, some already have been through commencement," he said. "It's hard to get something done those last couple of days."

Schroeder was featured by The State Journal-Register on June 1, 2015.

Read the article online

UIS professor blogs about thrift shopping

Rachel Otwell from WUIS public radio recently wrote about UIS assistant professor of history Holly Kent's blog on thrift shopping.

"I have been really loving a blog about thrift shopping, which Holly Kent is the co-founder of. It's called Thriftanthology and she runs it with Kelli Oliver. The fact Kent teaches women's history at UIS gives her an interesting, nuanced perspective."

"Fashion tells you a lot about a culture and a society ... it gets us into a lot of big questions."

"Kent says learning about fashion provides info about society, class, and consumerism."

Read the full WUIS story online

Read Kent's Thriftanthology Blog