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Richard Sitler, The Southern 

Goreville's Grant Venus celebrates as he rounds third after the ball hit by Braden Webb sailed over the fence for the second home run for the Blackcats in the second inning against Steeleville Saturday.

Ice Cube coming to SIUC
SIU hopes Ice Cube show will send the message it is 'back in the game'

CARBONDALE — Lori Stettler, vice chancellor of student affairs at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, said Monday really was “a good day.”

After months of planning, Stettler and her team were excited to finally announce Ice Cube — the iconic rapper who helped usher gangsta rap into the mainstream as a member of N.W.A. — as the first act in the new SIU Presents series. He will perform April 28 at SIU Arena. Stettler said the initiative hopes to bring live entertainment back to the forefront of the university. Stettler said this is something alumni, old and young, have been asking for.

Robbie Stokes, local audio technician and longtime pillar of Carbondale’s music scene, said he remembers well the golden years of concerts on campus. He quickly spit out a list of big-name acts he got to see at the university — The Police, ZZ Top, Elton John, James Taylor, The Psychedelic Furs and even modern favorites like Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Stokes said he saw a steady decline in big-name acts coming to town after what he perceived to be poor attendance to Kanye West’s 2005 performance at SIU Arena. He said that might have driven SIUC to be more risk-averse, trying to bring acts of more local interest like professional wrestling and members of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour.

Until recent years, alcohol sales, or lack thereof, have been a source of complaint regarding booking the arena. However, Stettler didn’t go so far as to blame the decline entirely on that. There were other, more logistical issues she saw as contributors.

“I think that might have played into it, but also the industry changed pretty drastically as well,” Stettler said.

She said the arena, by modern standards, wouldn’t accommodate most mainstream, stadium-driven acts.

“They are playing these venues we can’t compete with,” she said, adding that local competition at casinos also perpetuated the problem.

And, adding on even more, Stettler said geography also is a factor.

“We are kind of at a disadvantage in Southern Illinois in a routing aspect,” she said, adding that the city is not immediately off a major interstate.

Stokes said population decline has also made the “mercurial” art of booking shows even harder. “It’s not as easy as it used to be,” he said.

No matter the reason, Stokes said he is glad to see a renewed effort by the university to enhance campus life.

“They could book anything right now and people would say, ‘Thank God, at least they are trying something,’” he said.

Amy Fox, Carbondale’s public relations officer, said the city is excited about this new chapter at SIUC. She said there is the potential for an indirect economic boost with big events like April’s Ice Cube’s concert — Fox said concert-goers might go out to eat that night or come in from out of town and shop or even possibly stay at a hotel in the city.

Looking to future events, Stettler said during their planning for SIU Presents, they heard one big theme from surveys — they needed to bring a mix of hip-hop, rock and country. That said, they thought Ice Cube would be a big splash to introduce the new event series.

Ice Cube will play SIU Arena next month. Remember the other huge acts that have played here?

Stettler said SIUC Chancellor Carlo Montemagno has been enthusiastic about reinvigorating campus life and has taken an interest in bringing concerts back in particular. Even during Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting, Montemagno talked about it — he was excited about Monday's big announcement.

Stettler couldn’t give specifics about future concerts but said they are looking at dates throughout the rest of the year that might complement other events happening both on campus and in Carbondale, and in the region as well.

Stettler said hopefully this will not only send a message to Carbondale and Southern Illinois, but to artists and promoters, as well.

“It also lets the music industry know that we are back in the game and we are serious about it,” she said.

Tickets for Ice Cube’s concert range from $25 to $80, however, Stettler said students should be on the lookout for an announcement about a discount.

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Rap icon Ice Cube is coming to Carbondale. Here are the details.

CARBONDALE — Rapper, singer, songwriter, actor, producer and media personality Ice Cube is coming to Southern Illinois University Carbondale next month.

The man who has sold millions of records worldwide will perform at the SIU Arena at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 28. Tickets officially go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday, March 19. An online-only presale through the SIU Ticket Office kicks off at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 14. Use the promo code “THESOUTHERN” for early ticket purchases.

Buy tickets online at Starting March 19, tickets are also available by calling 877-725-8547.

“People on campus and in the community have told me that they want to see major entertainment and cultural events on campus,” SIU Carbondale Chancellor Carlo Montemagno said. “In keeping with our vision of a revitalized SIU, we are listening to the requests of our students and community to bring major acts to Southern Illinois.”

Elvis, Bruce Springsteen, Heart, the Grateful Dead, Foreigner, Kiss, Aerosmith, the Blue Man Group and countless other legends — they’ve all performed previously on the SIU campus. Canadian rapper and singer Drake’s first live solo performance took place at SIU, and Peter Gabriel recorded part of his “Plays Live” album there as well.

“We want people to think of SIU as the place to go not only for a tremendous education but also as a place where they have positive experiences and make lasting memories,” Montemagno said. “We’re also confident these efforts will benefit the city of Carbondale and the region through tourism revenue.”

He said that the university is relying on community and student support, as well as ticket sales from across the region, to make this and other events a success.

Bringing popular entertainment to campus is the goal of SIU Presents, a new campus initiative dedicated to booking, coordinating, promoting and seeking sponsorships for the Ice Cube concert and other popular entertainment. The Ice Cube concert was suggested by a number of students in an informal survey.

Ice Cube, whose real name is O’Shea Jackson Sr., rose to fame with the hip-hop groups N.W.A. and C.I.A., but his rap and songwriting abilities led to a successful solo career with millions of albums sold.

Ice Cube will play SIU Arena next month. Remember the other huge acts that have played here?

Credited by many as one of the founders of the “gangsta rap” genre, he’s also starred in numerous films, including the critically acclaimed drama “Boyz n the Hood” and cult classic comedy “Friday.” He has appeared with Elmo on PBS’s “Sesame Street” and launched the television series “Are We There Yet?” He’s a successful entrepreneur as well, with a clothing line, a record label and other ventures.

Watch for future SIU Presents events announcements by liking its Facebook page at or joining the email list at

SIU Presents will be seeking input to assure that future bookings include the acts students and the public want to see. In addition, the organization will be working with community supporters and sponsors to assure the events are financially successful.

The Southern, along with River Radio and WSIL-TV3, are already partners with the university‘s SIU Presents Arts and Entertainment Program. Arthur Agency, a Carbondale advertising and marketing firm, developed the SIU Presents branding at no cost to the university. The city of Carbondale and Carbondale Tourism are also supportive of the new SIU initiative, according to a university news release.

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Illinois governor candidates at odds on marijuana use

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Democratic candidates for governor say it's time for the state to legalize recreational marijuana, while Republican candidates oppose the idea.

Nine states and Washington, D.C, have already legalized recreational marijuana. Democrats seeking their party's nomination for governor say it's time the state follow suit, arguing the move would bring in needed revenue and would be a major step toward criminal justice reform.

The candidates in the March 20 primary are Sen. Daniel Biss, businessman Chris Kennedy, billionaire J.B. Pritzker, educator Bob Daiber, activist Tio Hardiman and physician Robert Marshall.

On the other side, the two GOP primary candidates have opposed legalization and raised questions about the future of Illinois' medical marijuana pilot program, which is set to expire in 2020.

Gov. Bruce Rauner implemented the pilot program in 2015, but he has recently fought in court attempts to expand the list of qualifying conditions. He is against legalization for recreational purposes.

His primary competitor, Rep. Jeanne Ives, has consistently railed against any type of legalization.

Here's a look at where the candidates stand:

Recreational marijuana

While all Democratic candidates favor legalizing recreational marijuana, there are some debates about how the process should take place.

The perceived front-runners — Pritzker, Biss and Kennedy — all favor legalization, arguing it would bring more tax revenue into a state with nearly $9 billion in unpaid bills.

They also say it would help Illinois' overcrowded prison problem and fight what they see as racial disparities in sentencing and arrests.

Illinois was considered to be one of the top 12 states with the most arrests for marijuana possession, according to the American Civil Liberties Union's most recent analysis in 2010. While African-Americans made up 15 percent of the population at the time, they accounted for 58 percent of marijuana-related arrests.

"We must review and commute the sentences of people incarcerated for marijuana offenses in Illinois," said Pritzker, a Chicago entrepreneur. "It's time to bring the era of mass incarcerations for minor drug offenses to an end."

Kennedy, of Kenilworth, echoed the sentiment and said he would commute sentences on a case-by-case basis for non-violent offenders solely convicted of possession or sale of the drug. He also wants the University of Illinois to oversee legalization, saying the school would act as a third-party not "looking to profit off of a public health decision" like lobbyists in Springfield.

Biss said he would go one step further. The lawmaker said he would commute sentences en masse, following the model of San Francisco, where prosecutors threw out thousands of marijuana-related convictions dating back to 1975 with no action needed from those convicted.

"I'm committed to a criminal justice agenda that focuses on rehabilitation and community investment rather than mass incarceration — and we must make sure that no one gets left behind," said the Evanston lawmaker.

Marshall, a Burr Ridge physician, and Daiber, a regional schools superintendent from Marine, are both favorable to legalization, but Daiber stipulates the initiative must be passed by the voters.

Chicago activist Hardiman favors decriminalizing marijuana and legalizing only "small amounts" for recreational purposes.

On the Republican side, Rauner and Ives both oppose legalization, saying there may be detrimental effects in states where recreational use is permitted.

"I do not support legalizing marijuana. I think that's a mistake," said the governor. "You know there's a massive human experiment going on in Colorado and California and other places. We should see how that's impacting lives and addiction and hurting young people before we make any decision about it here."

Rauner signed legislation in 2016 making possessing small amounts of marijuana a civil offense, saying prosecuting "these minor cases" is a "drain on taxpayer dollars."

But he said he would "have to carefully consider the consequences of any further legislation" before deciding to expand decriminalization.

Ives, of Wheaton, did not respond to The Associated Press request for comment but previously told the State-Journal Register that she opposes legalization, saying it "is the wrong way to solve our budget problems."

Medical marijuana

The state's medical marijuana program, one of the most restrictive in the country, has largely taken a back seat in the race.

Former Gov. Pat Quinn signed the pilot program into law in 2013, but it wasn't implemented until 2015.

Rauner has been both friend and foe to the medical marijuana industry, adding two qualifying conditions to the list in 2016 but resisting further expansion.

To qualify for a medical card, a person must have a "debilitating condition" such as cancer, HIV/AIDS or Alzheimer's disease. Illinois added PTSD and terminal illness to the list of qualifying conditions in 2016.

The Rauner administration is appealing a Cook County Circuit judge's order that the state expands the list to include intractable pain, or pain that's resistant to treatment.

The governor didn't say whether he would continue the program beyond its 2020 expiration date.

Dan Linn, executive director of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws in Illinois, said "it's possible" Rauner could end the program. But he said Rauner likely wouldn't take that action because the industry is responsible for 1,500 jobs and caters to 30,000 patients across the state.

Ives has opposed legalization in any form and voted against the pilot program in 2013.

Pritzker, Biss and Kennedy all want to make the pilot program permanent and expand the list of qualifying conditions.

Only Biss specifically detailed how he would expand the list, saying he would model Illinois' program on California's, "allowing cannabis to be prescribed to any debilitating illness a physician sees fit."

He adds he will "also reduce licensing fees, streamline regulations, and expand access by making sure there are doctors in every community who will prescribe medical cannabis."

Hardiman said he would make the pilot program permanent, but wouldn't make any further changes. Daiber has said he would loosen restrictions under the program, but added that if marijuana is legalized, it would remove the necessity of a medical program.

Marshall did not return the AP request for comment, though he has previously said he supports legalizing marijuana and decriminalizing drugs such as cocaine and morphine.


Marijuana plants are a few weeks away from harvest in 2015 in the 'Flower Room' at the Ataraxia medical marijuana cultivation center in Albion.

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SIUC Faculty Senate president: Rumored low freshman enrollment numbers inaccurate

CARBONDALE — The president of Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Faculty Senate says a rumor about next year’s anticipated freshman enrollment is inaccurate.

At a Graduate and Professional Student Council meeting on March 6, GPSC President Johnathan Flowers announced that university projections place fall 2018 freshman enrollment between 870 and 970 students. The decline would leave a $4 million hole in the university’s budget, Flowers claimed.

In a phone interview with The Southern late last week, Flowers said the information came from a Faculty Senate Executive Committee meeting with the chancellor.

“I have it on good authority from people in that meeting … that this is straight from the chancellor’s mouth and it was co-signed by Associate Provost (David) DiLalla,” Flowers said.

The Faculty Senate Executive Council consists of the body’s four officers, its past president and five chairs.

Reached Monday, Faculty Senate President Kathie Chwalisz, professor of psychology, said the figures cited by Flowers comprise one of several estimates provided at the Executive Council meeting.

“We did get some preliminary numbers, but they also were just estimates, and there were estimates that were much larger, too. So that number was a conservative number, but I don’t think it’s anything official,” Chwalisz said.

The estimates were provided by the university’s enrollment management office and are partially based on housing contracts. The university does not currently have a director in that office, Chwalisz noted.

“Anybody who’s making those estimates is just making those estimates based on their piece of the puzzle, but right now we don’t have anybody who, that’s their career,” she said.

Freshman enrollment in fall 2017 was 2,126, a decline of 19.19 percent compared to the fall of 2016. The chancellor has publicly stated that fall 2018 enrollment could sink below 1,000.

“(The 870-970 estimate) is an alarming estimate and it’s a sad estimate, but I think some of the other people in that office had estimated 1,100 or 1,200,” Chwalisz said.

Chwalisz also denied Flowers’ claims that deans have been asked to prepare 2, 4 and 6 percent reductions to their areas. She said the chancellor reported at the Executive Council meeting that he hasn’t asked anyone to prepare for budget cuts.

“The fact that any report would come out of that meeting is a little strange, and that the authority would be Johnathan Flowers and the GPSC,” Chwalisz said.

Rae Goldsmith, SIU’s chief marketing and communications officer, said in an email that the university had “nothing to share” on projected freshman enrollment.

The next full Faculty Senate meeting will be held March 20.

Draft GOP report: No coordination between Trump and Russia

WASHINGTON — Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have completed a draft report concluding there was no collusion or coordination between Donald Trump's presidential campaign and Russia, a finding that pleased the White House but enraged Democrats who had not yet seen the document.

After a yearlong investigation, Texas Rep. Mike Conaway announced Monday that the committee has finished interviewing witnesses and will share the report with Democrats for the first time Tuesday. Conaway is the Republican leading the House probe, one of several investigations on Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.

"We found no evidence of collusion," Conaway told reporters Monday, suggesting that those who believe there was are reading too many spy novels. "We found perhaps some bad judgment, inappropriate meetings, inappropriate judgment in taking meetings. But only Tom Clancy or Vince Flynn or someone else like that could take this series of inadvertent contacts with each other, or meetings or whatever, and weave that into sort of a fiction page-turner, spy thriller."


Conaway previewed some of the conclusions, but said the public will not see the report until Democrats have reviewed it and the intelligence community has decided what information can become public, a process that could take weeks. Democrats are expected to issue a separate report with far different conclusions.

In addition to the statement on coordination with Russians, the draft picks apart a central assessment made by the U.S. intelligence community in the months after the 2016 election. The January 2017 assessment revealed that the FBI, CIA and NSA had concluded that the Russian government, at the direction of President Vladimir Putin, waged a covert influence campaign to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election with the goal of hurting Democrat Hillary Clinton's candidacy and helping Trump's campaign.

"We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump," the intelligence community report reads, noting later that the Kremlin "aspired to help President-elect Trump's election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton."

House intelligence committee officials said they spent hundreds of hours reviewing raw source material used by the intelligence services in the assessment and said it did not meet the appropriate standards to make the claim about helping Trump. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the intelligence material. Conaway said there will be a second report just dealing with the intelligence assessment and its credibility.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a statement soon after the GOP announcement Monday, saying it stood by the intelligence community's findings. DNI spokesman Brian Hale said the office will review the findings of the committee's report.

Democrats have criticized Republicans on the committee for shortening the investigation, pointing to multiple contacts between Trump's campaign and Russia and saying they have seen far too few witnesses to make any judgment on collusion. The Democrats and Republicans have openly fought throughout the investigation, with Democrats suggesting a cover-up for a Republican president and one GOP member of the panel calling the probe "poison" for the previously bipartisan panel.

The top Democrat on the intelligence panel, California Rep. Adam Schiff, suggested that by wrapping up the probe the Republicans were protecting Trump. He called the development a "tragic milestone" and said history would judge them harshly.

Republicans "proved unwilling to subpoena documents like phone records, text messages, bank records and other key records so that we might determine the truth about the most significant attack on our democratic institutions in history," Schiff said.

According to Conaway, the report will agree with the intelligence assessment on most details, including that Russians did meddle in the election. It will detail Russian cyberattacks on U.S. institutions during the election and the use of social media to sow discord. It will also show a pattern of Russian attacks on European allies — information that could be redacted in the final report. It will blame officials in former President Barack Obama's administration for a "lackluster" response and look at leaks from the intelligence community to the media.

It will include at least 25 recommendations, including how to improve election security, respond to cyberattacks and improve counterintelligence efforts.

The report is also expected to turn the subject of collusion toward the Clinton campaign, saying an anti-Trump dossier compiled by a former British spy and paid for by Democrats was one way that Russians tried to influence the election. Conaway did not suggest that Clinton knowingly coordinated with the Russians, but said the dossier clearly "would have hurt him and helped her."

He also said there was no evidence that anything "untoward" happened at a June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower between members of the Trump campaign and Russians, though he called it ill-advised. Despite a promise of dirt on Clinton ahead of the meeting, there's no evidence that such material was exchanged, he said.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is also investigating the Russian intervention, and is expected to have a bipartisan report out in the coming weeks dealing with election security. The Senate panel is expected to issue findings on the more controversial issue of coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia at a later date.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, also investigating the meddling, is expected to release transcripts soon of closed-door interviews with several people who attended the 2016 meeting between the Trump campaign and Russians. It's unclear if the Judiciary panel will produce a final report.

The congressional investigations are completely separate from special counsel Robert Mueller's probe, which is likely to take much longer and has already resulted in charges against several people linked to Trump's campaign. Unlike Mueller's, congressional investigations aren't criminal but serve to inform the public and to recommend possible legislation.