U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis and CSU Interim Vice President of Administration & Finance Cecil Lucy discuss the viability of Chicago State University moving forward at a recent press conference. | Lee Edwards/Contributor

U. S. Congressman Danny Davis (7th) proclaimed Sunday, Aug. 7 “Chicago State University Day” and made a call to action for faith-based leaders to promote enrollment and support for Chicago State University at a recent press conference.

CSU has suffered multiple setbacks this year in terms of total enrollment and employed staff due in large part to the ongoing state budget crisis forcing the predominantly African American university to make immediate sacrifices in order to keep its doors open.

Enter Davis, an alumnus of CSU, urging faith leaders to mobilize their congregations to rally behind the university. Davis, who earned his master’s degree from the university, said he has commitments from 100 ministers willing to support CSU for the weeks of July 31 and August 7.

At least two prominent West Side churches, Mount Vernon Baptist Church and New Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church, both in East Garfield Park, will serve as centers of operation for the faith-based effort.

Rev. Marshall Hatch, New Mount Pilgrim’s pastor, was appointed to Chicago State University’s board of trustees last year by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

“The most organized entity in the African American community is the church and so imagine the impact of 100 ministers saying, ‘You all need to look at going to college, you all need to look at going to Chicago State.’ That’s a lot of impact,” said Davis.

Davis stressed that individuals seeking high education need not go to Ivy League institutions when there’s “professional teachers” at CSU. He shared, too, that his office along with other stakeholders haven’t given up on establishing a satellite branch of CSU on the West Side of Chicago.

“Most of us hear about historically black colleges and universities and what a hallmark they have been in the development of African Americans,” said Davis. “Chicago State is not old enough to be called historical but it is historical in the lives of African Americans in the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois. We want individuals to know that the institution is available to them; we want them to know that they don’t lose anything.”

CSU Interim Vice President of Administration & Finance Cecil Lucy thanked Davis for his support and laid out CSU’s current standing and how it intends to forge ahead. The administration is seeking to replace the third of its staff released in April and plans to reassess its needs for the coming fall and spring semesters, Lucy said. He explained how the state’s budget impasse is affecting CSU.

“Our total budget for this fiscal year is approximately $72 million total, so before our state appropriation was approximately 30 percent of our total operating budget,” said Lucy. “So the impact of a 40 percent reduction in a state appropriation was significant and required that we reduce our workforce.”

Lucky exuded cautious optimism that CSU would be ready by the beginning of the fall to get back on track.

“The semester doesn’t start until the later part of August so right now we’re trending about 15 percent less than our normal fall enrollment but we are hopeful that the numbers will increase and improve,” said Lucy.

PUSH Excel National Director Rev. Janette Wilson lent her support and applauded Davis for his commitment to education. She remarked that many young people with families utilize CSU as a resource for higher education within city limits. Earning a college degree today is the equivalent of a high school diploma from years past, said Wilson. She called for African Americans to take advantage of the new STEM courses available at CSU to have the skills necessary to compete in the technology field.

“One cannot acquire the information and skilled training without a college education,” said Wilson. “Our young people must be trained not just to play with technology but to program and understand coding, understand how to program a robot and design them.”