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SIUC opens weeklong International Festival with colorful Parade of Flags

CARBONDALE — In an exuberant show of solidarity in diversity, students from all over the world braved the bitter cold Monday morning to march in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s annual Parade of Flags.

The colorful display kicked off the International Festival, a weeklong event celebrating the many cultures represented at SIUC. The theme of this year’s festival is “One World. One Passport.”

bhetzler / Byron Hetzler, The Southern 

SIU Chancellor Carlo Montemagno (center) walks with SIU international students through campus as part of the annual International Festival on Monday in Carbondale.

Dressed in native attire, participants carried the bright flags of their home countries from Woody Hall to Anthony Hall, where SIUC Chancellor Carlo Montemagno joined the procession. The march ended with a formal proclamation opening the festival in the Student Center.

Yi Lee, partnership coordinator in SIU’s Center for International Education, said he participates in the parade every year. Originally from China, he first came to the United States as a child and now works to establish partnerships with other institutions for exchange and recruitment of students.

“We really value our international students bringing diversity and culture into SIU. They choose SIU sight unseen, and they trust this institution. So this is kind of a way of showing that we appreciate them, that we want to give back, that we recognize their contributions when they’re here,” Lee said.

Scarleth Subillaga, of Honduras, is finishing up a double-major master’s program in Spanish Literature and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). She called the International Festival “an opportunity to meet people from all over the world.”

bhetzler / Byron Hetzler, The Southern 

SIU international students display their countries' flags prior to marching through campus to open the annual International Festival on Monday in Carbondale.

“I think that since we are internationals, it’s a great idea to build a community here. And since we are so far from our countries, it’s a great idea to share and to help each other … but if we don’t know each other, that’s difficult,” she said.

Natalia Hajduk, who came to SIUC from Poland to study architecture, said she was glad to be able to attend the parade for the first time.

“It’s so colorful here, and you can meet so many people from so many different countries. … I haven’t found better energy than in international gatherings, because everybody can tell you about their different perspectives. It’s a totally different, new way to think about things and exchange experiences,” Hajduk said.

During the proclamation ceremony, International Student Council President Ramesh Neupane said being away from home as an international student can be challenging.

“But the Carbondale community, SIUC campus and the Center for International Education have always provided a warm welcome to all international students and make us feel home away from home,” he said.

About one in 10 students on the SIUC campus are international students, Andrew Carver, the director of international affairs, told the crowd at the proclamation ceremony.

bhetzler / Byron Hetzler, The Southern 

Mursal Ghiassi, a linguistics student from Kabul, Afghanistan, places her county's flag in a stand as part of the opening ceremonies for SIU's International Festival on Monday in Carbondale.

“… I want to remind all of you that you are welcome in our home, in our university, and you are forever members of the SIU family,” Carver said. “We extend this welcome at a time when the United States has been shaken … by political turmoil manifested in travel bans, enhanced vetting and growing uncertainty in the accessibility of higher education in America. Yet the SIU Center for Education’s core mission remains unchanged: to recruit, to enroll and to support students from every country in the world.”

Montemagno, who delivered the proclamation and opened the festival week by ringing a ceremonial gong, spoke about his experiences during a trip to Nepal, where he worked to develop a non-surgical treatment for cataracts.

“Hopefully when you travel abroad, you’ll have opportunities where you can use your knowledge … to craft solutions and innovate to make the world a better place, because that’s one of the virtues of being at a great university, is that we are global citizens and we work together to try and make the world a better place for all,” Montemagno said.

Carbondale Mayor John “Mike” Henry told the crowd that when he first came to SIUC as an engineering student, he had never met a person of color.

“When I came here, I shook hands with the first black person I’d ever seen in my life, just randomly, because we sort of ran into each other in the student registration line. … We are proud to support you in your endeavors. My selfish part says I want you to get your degrees here and stay here in Carbondale. I know some of you will leave, but I hope some of you will stay, and continue to add to the richness of our community.”

For more information about the festival, visit

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Illinois Rep. Bryant hopeful repurposed Murphysboro IYC will open in March

MURPHYSBORO — For about the past four years, State Rep. Terri Bryant has been fighting to reopen the former Illinois Youth Center in Murphysboro as a re-entry center for Illinois Department of Corrections inmates at the end of their sentences.

As announced Thursday by Gov. Bruce Rauner, the facility will open soon, and Bryant, R-Murphysboro, said the facility is training staff and will eventually open as a transitional facility for minimum security inmates to train for jobs after incarceration.

Bryant said on Monday the target date for inmates at the facility is between March 1 and April 1 because it depends on staff being hired and trained appropriately for the facility.

According to a spokesperson with the Illinois Department of Corrections, there will be 63 officers and 240 offenders at the facility when it opens. The spokesperson said those numbers could increase as the program grows.

In addition to officers, Bryant said other positions such as counselors and support staff have been offered positions and will report to work in Murphysboro on Feb. 16.

The intent of the program, Bryant said, is to get offenders back on the street with vocational training and education. The Murphysboro facility will also offer drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

“Instead of giving a guy $10 in gate money and pushing them out of the front door and saying see you next time, you are actually preparing them to go back out into the community,” she said. “If you put an inmate back on the street and they don’t reoffend, that is a win-win. It’s a win for the inmate and a win for the state.”

It's not only exciting for Bryant to see the facility reopen for personal reasons, she said, but also because Murphysboro and Southern Illinois were hurt when 101 people lost their jobs when the youth center closed in 2012. She said she has invested a lot of time, energy and “legislative equity” in making this move happen.

Murphysboro Mayor Will Stephens said from the city’s perspective, it is very pleased to see the facility reopen.

“I believe politics played a part of its closing to begin with and I think the reopening is going to hopefully energize a portion of the Murphysboro economy and lead to a brighter future from Murphysboro,” he said.

Even bigger than the town’s economy, Stephens said the re-entry facility is good public policy.

“That facility is going to be a transition center that is going to give people life skills so that people who been incarcerated will have a real second chance,” he said. “That is morally the right thing to do.”

A Rauner spokesperson said in 2017 the reopening and repurposing of the facility took about $800,000. Bryant said that money was in the 2018 budget and not opening on time means the state will only have to use about three months of those funds in this fiscal year. The new state fiscal year begins on July 1.

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Ives: 'Edgy' ad 'accurate representation' of Rauner policies

SPRINGFIELD — Republican candidate for governor Jeanne Ives staunchly defended Monday her contentious campaign ad against Gov. Bruce Rauner featuring actors portraying a transgender woman and a woman flaunting a free abortion as an "accurate representation" of policies her rival has endorsed.

Agreeing that the ad launched over the weekend is "edgy," the conservative state representative from Wheaton seemed flummoxed during an appearance at the City Club of Chicago as to why anyone would call it offensive.

"What's offensive about the ad? The ad is a policy ad," Ives said. "It's accurate representation of what the policies look like on the ground. We just put it in a visual."

The spot features actors portraying a transgender woman, a supporter of sanctuary protection for immigrants, and a woman thanking taxpayers for financing her abortion.

Ives is attacking the first-term governor for signing laws allowing transgender residents to change their birth certificates, allowing Medicaid- and state-insurance-covered abortions and limiting law enforcement officers' interaction with immigrants.

The transgender law doesn't address public restrooms and the law shielding immigrants from interrogation except with a criminal warrant does not provide "sanctuary," or protection to people who came to the U.S. illegally.

Ives attacks Rauner on 'trust' over abortion, immigration

SPRINGFIELD — Jeanne Ives, the lawmaker challenging Gov. Bruce Rauner for the Republican nomination for governor, made the most Monday of what could be their only face-to-face appearance, accusing her rival of lying to his supporters about opposing publicly financed abortion and signing a "sanctuary" bill on immigration.

"The commercial does not attack people, it tackles issues by truthfully illustrating the constituencies Rauner has chosen to serve to the exclusion of others," Ives said.

Ives said the actors, who also portray a Chicago teacher and a rich executive representing a Rauner-signed subsidy for energy giant "Exelon," ''look like" the roles they're playing. That brought heckling from the front of the room because the deep-voiced actor in a red dress has a 5 o'clock shadow. She insisted it was accurate, declaring, "I've had them show up at my door."

She did not elaborate. Advocates for LGBTQ rights, including Equality Illinois, have denounced the ad as divisive. Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider urged Ives to end the ad and apologize. Rauner said it betrayed how "unelectable" Ives is.

His campaign did not immediately respond Monday to a request for comment.

Rauner, a wealthy private-equity investor who has largely financed not only his campaign but the state party, has largely ignored Ives and focused on Democratic front-runner J.B. Pritzker.

But Ives gained ground in a face-to-face appearance with the governor last week before the Chicago Tribune editorial board and she announced Monday a $2 million contribution from businessman Dick Uihlein, a former Rauner contributor.

Ives did not address a $1,000 contribution she returned to a donor whose Twitter account displays Nazi sympathies. She was called out when a staffer retweeted the man's support of Ives. Ives later posted a disavowal.

She advocated not freezing the highest local property taxes in the nation, as Rauner wants, but limiting them to 1 percent as a percentage of home value, like in Indiana.

She said she would cut the state's 850 school districts in half, first by requiring each district encompass an entire school career, K-12.

And she said she would impose a cap to control spending.

How Illinois governor candidates would fix transportation

CHICAGO — Anyone who's driven across Illinois on crumbling highways, commuted on regularly delayed Metra trains or sat for hours on congested expressways knows the state's transportation system is in desperate need of an upgrade.

"We have got to fence the Springfield spenders and the local government spenders in with a hard cap that forces hard choices," Ives said.