Bernie Sanders' rally hits Chicago

Photo by Mia HarmanAbout a week before Super Tuesday, on Feb. 25, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) made an appearance at a rally titled “A Future to Believe In” at Chicago State University (CSU) — a school in danger of closing down due to a lack of funding.Sanders briefly discussed CSU’s current financial situation in his speech, citing it as an example of the effects of a larger system of injustice and corruption. “I come here and I find out this great university is also being threatened by cuts,” Sanders said at the rally. “What is going on in America? Where are our priorities?” Two days before the event, CSU students and faculty received notice from the administration that their spring break was to be canceled in an attempt to stretch out the University’s remaining funds as much as possible to ensure students would be able to complete the academic semester. Sanders’ call to lower the costs of higher education and make public colleges and universities tuition-free resonates with CSU student Jaylen Yarbrough, whose education is now caught in the middle of the school’s predicament. “If we had free college tuition, we wouldn’t have this financial crisis. They’re trying to do everything they can to stretch out how long we can last, but pretty soon they’re going to have to close down some things,” Yarbrough said. “It just makes me really disappointed and sad, especially considering how long [the budget impasse] has been going on. I feel like it’s just a big stab in the back from the politicians to the people.” The budget stalemate Yarbrough referred to stems from an internal battle at the state legislature between the Democratic-led Congress and Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, which has led to the failure to pass a state budget. As a result, several state schools, including CSU, have been left without adequate funding. Angela Walton, a CSU alum who returned to the school to pursue a second Bachelor’s degree, expressed her concerns with the effects CSU’s situation has had on the community. “We’re trying to stay upbeat but the morale is really low. The faculty and the students are frustrated and a lot of times our classroom time gets taken up just asking questions about what will happen,” she said at the rally. “We’re trying to remain hopeful, but it’s very stressful.” Valencia Turnage, a student at the University of Chicago who helped organized the event, also believes the state of education in America is an issue that must be addressed in order to promote change of any kind. “Every issue you can point to in America goes back in some way, shape, or form to education and the fact that most people won’t even get a chance to compete for it is just ridiculous,” she said at the rally. Sanders’ official campaign said the rally was meant to provide a platform for the discussion of “a wide range of issues important to the people of Illinois, including making college affordable, getting big money out of politics, combating climate change, and criminal justice reform.” The rally, which was announced about 24 hours before it was scheduled to take place in CSU’s Emil and Patricia Jones Convocation Center, was well attended despite its short notice, with audience numbers reaching up to 7,000.