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Thursday, March 10, 2016


by Emily Jo Scalzo

Chicago State University students and supporters demonstrated in the Loop in early February. Photo source: RICH HEIN/SUN-TIMES via Chicago Reader, March 3, 2016. “Chicago State had said it would run out of money by the end of March as Illinois' public colleges and universities wait for state funding held up by the budget standoff. Chicago State has negotiated with the vendors it owes so that it can make payroll through the end of April. To stretch its finances, the predominantly black Chicago State has already issued notices of potential layoffs to its 900 employees and shortened the spring semester.”  —AP via Peoria Public Radio, March 3, 2016

The parking lot at Chicago State University
overflowed the night before the announcement
of nine hundred staff layoffs, a death knell—
the result of the budget impasse in Springfield.

Bernie Sanders chose this venue to hold a rally,
a state university now decimated by political gridlock,
its demographic comprised largely of minorities—
the latest victim in our sad culture war.

After eight months without state funding,
Spring Break was axed to finish the semester early,
to allow seniors to complete degrees, graduate—
all other students in limbo, the river run dry.

At twelve I haunted the halls of Chicago State University,
playing hooky from my small-town middle school,
attending my first poetry reading outside the president’s office—
surrounded by Ebonics and Spanish, African and Latin art.

There I was embraced in culture and pride in diversity,
political protests, creative endeavors, intellectual encouragement;
this environment, a refuge, determined my future—
soon those halls will be walked only by ghosts.

Emily Jo Scalzo holds an MFA in fiction from California State University-Fresno and is currently an assistant professor teaching research and creative writing at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Her work has appeared in various magazines including Midwestern Gothic, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, Blue Collar Review, Ms. Fit Magazine, Third Wednesday, Melancholy Hyperbole, and Leaves of Ink.