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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    PROTEST TODAY

    Sarah Bratt, a pre-communications freshman and member of the Arizona Students Association, paints a sign Monday on the UA Mall for todays protest of the pending budget cuts.
    Sarah Bratt, a pre-communications freshman and member of the Arizona Students’ Association, paints a sign Monday on the UA Mall for today’s protest of the pending budget cuts.

    Student leaders are not resting on their laurels in the wake of a legislative decision that could have dire consequences for Arizona’s educational institutions.

    Amid speculation for the UA’s future following a state-proposed budget cut of $243 million for the university system, three UA leadership entities are organizing a student protest to take place today at noon on the UA Mall near the Student Union Memorial Center, according to a press release issued by the Graduate Professional Student Council.

    GPSC, the Associated Students of the University of Arizona and the Arizona Students’ Association are teaming up to put on the protest.

    Similar protests are also planned today at Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University.

    The proposed cut could take as much as 40 percent of the UA’s budget, a prospect that should frighten UA students and faculty into action, Erin Herzog, government affairs director for the Arizona Students’ Association, said.

    If the state legislature goes through with the proposed cuts, the result would be “”crippling to the UA,”” Herzog said. “”That’s a cataclysmic amount.””

    While the UA realizes that Arizona, much like other states, is going through a time of economic difficulties, lack of funding for state education is something legislators should be concerned about, UA President Robert Shelton said via e-mail.

    “”The key message we are trying to convey to our legislative leaders and the governor is that we are prepared to take a fair share of budget cuts since we recognize the dire financial straits of the state,”” Shelton said. “”However, the proposal … would destroy (Arizona’s) universities and their ability to serve the state as economic engines. So, we don’t just complain. We state we are part of the solution!””

    While the protest is largely symbolic, the demonstration is a step in the right direction in order for students’ voices to be heard, Herzog said.

    “”I think we’re going to have a really good turnout,”” she said.

    The cuts, that could turn into a $388 million cut by 2010 according to the GPSC press release, would be devastating to the educational institution that has recently touted the UA’s quality of education.

    If students think the current UA Transformation is a shot in the arm, they have not seen anything yet, ASUA President Tommy Bruce said. No longer would the university be “”a world-class institution,”” he said.

    The cutbacks would force the university to consolidate or eliminate countless departments and colleges, as well as lay off massive numbers of UA faculty and staff, he said.

    “”It would literally rip our university apart limb by limb and render it unrecognizable,”” Bruce said. “”We need to start educating students.””

    The legislative proposal could not have come at a worse time for the UA, as the institution is already under reconstruction from the UA Transformation Plan that has seen consolidation of several departments and colleges and promises much of the same in the future, Bruce said.

    “”These are extremely difficult economic times for everybody,”” he said. “”What’s most important right now is to speak up and make our voices heard.””

    For many students, today’s protest is a pivotal opportunity for students to let legislators know that students should be consulted in the process as well, ASA intern Elma Delic said.

    “”It’s absolutely ridiculous the legislature is trying to pass this budget proposal,”” she said. “”I really hope legislators pay attention to us.””

    Delic was joined by fellow ASA intern Nicole Pasteur and several other students in helping to set up the event, including the creation of protest posters that display such messages as “”SOS: Save Our School””.

    “”It really makes me nervous,”” Pasteur said. “”My classes are already really big. A lot of people can’t get into classes … It’s going to be detrimental.””

    The protest is a key part of keeping students informed in the budget process, but it is hardly the final destination, as ASA plans to continue sponsoring events aimed toward students gaining statewide attention from legislators, Herzog said.

    One of those future events will be a bus ride to the state capitol on Jan. 28 to protest the proposed cuts, she said.

    “”Our goal is to keep the student body engaged,”” Herzog said. “”That’s really what’s going to get things done.””

    The protest and trip to the capitol are not only the right things for the UA to be doing they should be looked at as a duty that every students should thrive to take part in, Pasteur said.

    “”Shelton asked us to speak up and speak loudly,”” she said. “”We want the legislators to hear us as students.””

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