Op-ed by Illinois State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) -
Apparently, some in higher education have forgotten that both freedom and peace must be defended. That defense requires the brightest minds and most advanced equipment available. Yet, the socialist Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) of the University of Illinois is urging STEM workers to “take the pledge to refuse employment from all militaries and defense companies.”
The GEO is an organization that went on strike three weeks before the endo of semester. The strike yielded these teaching assistants taxpayer-funded pay increases over the next three years of 9.5%, an increase in health coverage costs to 87% from 80%, guaranteed tuition and fee reimbursement, child care assistance, and grievance protection from “micro-aggressions.”
Of course, these benefits are virtually unheard of in the private sector. It is truly concerning how out-of-touch many in our higher education system seem to be.
In 2014, my son Matt graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army from the ROTC program. That year the University had one of their own Air Force ROTC graduates as the commencement speaker, Astronaut Michael Hopkins. Our son, Matt, worked incredibly hard to achieve both a very difficult degree in a STEM major, and went on to become an Army Infantry officer and earned his Ranger Tab. He is currently serving in Alaska in a Stryker battalion where each vehicle is a sophisticated multi-purpose combat vehicle.
In 2016 our son Nick graduate from West Point and was commissioned in the Navy as an Ensign. Nick is a Navy pilot and when he is finished with his training he will be flying a sophisticated machine which very few are able to understand or handle physically.
A great many things influence the outcome of battles. Leadership being one of the most important factors. But technological advancements have forced major changes in tactics and strategy.
In the 21st century, our soldiers, airmen, and sailors operate very advanced machines that travel far below the earth’s surface along the ocean floor and as far as 50,000 feet above the earth, all while still carrying out the basic military tasks of move, shoot and communicate. While wartime missions can be deadly, even the training in peacetime is dangerous. It is important that the men and women serving our country are have the equipment necessary to carry out any mission. Their lives are on the line – to protect our lives.
It was perhaps for that very reason that in FY17, the Department of Defense awarded nearly $60 million to the University of Illinois system for research, $47 million to the Urbana-Champaign campus alone.
It is deeply concerning that a GEO is pushing such a reckless policy, and that it has gone unchecked by the University.
While University of Illinois President, Dr. Tim Killeen, assured me that he would look into the matter. Killeen also professed the University’s long tradition of supporting the military (a fact I know that to be true), the problem is that a large coalition of instructors are pushing either a disrespect for ignorance of the critical role the military plays in maintaining a free society.
So – incorporated into UofI’s mandatory diversity training, I would encourage a discussion of the historic partnership the University has had with the military and the contributions they have made to both the University and society is in order. One of their most notable graduates, and the commencement speaker when our son graduated, is Astronaut Michael Hopkins, who was just awarded the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award from Aerospace Engineering.
It would be irresponsible for University administration to ignore the GEO on this matter. The organization wields influence and is using that influence to push insane practices and foolish demand on their members.
Freedom, peace and security are not easily obtained and must be vigilantly defended… whether socialistic teaching assistants like it or not.
Rep. Ives is a West Point Graduate, serving in the military before becoming an Illinois lawmaker in 2013.