Students rally in protest of appropriation cuts

University Park, Pa. -- Hundreds of people gathered on the steps of Old Main over the lunch hour today (April 4) to protest the proposed cuts to Penn State's appropriation. While most members of the crowd were students, they were joined by faculty, staff, administrators, members of the community, and even State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham.

"This isn't just Penn State, this is about Pennsylvania. This is about our whole economy," said student Chris Stevens. "Penn State just got $182 million cut from their budget. Public education got cut $1.6 billion. … We didn't wreck the economy. We didn't bankrupt the government, we're not causing the budget crisis," he said, making the case that students need to stand up and fight back for a fair economy that works for all the people. "Tomorrow we're going to be voicing our opinions to legislators at Capitol Day."

M.J. Worsham, the student coordinator for Penn State Capitol Day and director of governmental affairs for the Council of Commonwealth Student Governments (CCSG), also urged the crowd to attend Capitol Day in Harrisburg tomorrow (April 5). "Penn State Capitol Day is a day for you to sit down with your legislators and say, 'I'm … tired of being disregarded by the governor.' It's time for you to sit down and say, 'These are the reasons Penn State is important to the Commonwealth, and why Penn State is important to me, and why with these changes, these cuts, I will not be able to afford Penn State. And that is a problem.' At the end of the day, Harrisburg will know we mean business and we're not going to stop until they fix things." Worsham said buses will leave from Pollock Road in front of the HUB-Robeson Center at 7 a.m. Tuesday, free of charge. Buses also will transport students from other Penn State campuses to Harrisburg for Capitol Day. Students should check with the student government office on their campus for details.

"We're not here to divide Penn State. We're not here to divide Pennsylvania. People can come here, it doesn't matter what your race is, or your age, or your gender, or your political affiliation, you're coming here today if you care about Penn State, if you care about keeping Penn State affordable," said Paige Heimark.

Penn State has received no increase in state funding for the past 10 years, while during that period student enrollment has increased by 14,000 students.

The final speaker of the day, fourth-generation Penn State student Liz Crossen, spoke at length about that unity. "We are here today in unity as Penn Staters, with the University we love, with the state of Pennsylvania and our country, to say it is unacceptable to cut funding for education at all levels, to the bone. It is unacceptable and your presence here sends the message that we will fight this because our education is worth fighting for," she said. "(Fighting against the appropriation cuts) is important on so many levels. It is important to me because I believe in higher education. I believe in its incredible, emancipatory, transformative power, and the impact it has not only on the life of the student but on the myriad ways the student can take that education and create change for the greater society."

Crossen continued, "Statewide budget cuts have obliterated funding for education and as a result the potential tuition increases would make a Penn State education impossible to afford for so many intelligent and unquestionably deserving and perhaps the hardest-working students. It's an attack we must not take lying down. Losing the students who cannot afford all, most or some of the tuition would be losing an essential piece of Penn State. Indeed, the diversity of class, gender and race of the student body is what set us apart nearly 150 years ago as a forerunner of the Land Grant institution. It is what made us a university of the people. Higher education is worth fighting for, for ourselves, for our peers and for everyone."

Crossen said that Penn State's motto is Making Life Better, and that as a Land Grant University, Penn State makes life better for everyone, not only those who can afford it. "We must not lose sight of this, because higher education does make life better for everyone and it is absolutely, undeniably, worth fighting for," she said.

The CCSG had a sign-up table at the rally for those interested in making the trip to Harrisburg for Capitol Day. For more information about the trip, visit http://alumni2.psu.edu/grassroots/events/default.htm or http://php.scripts.psu.edu/clubs/up/ccsg/index.php online.

Hundreds of jobs will be eliminated at Penn State as a result of the loss of $182 million in state support. The University also has announced a freeze in salaries for next year, as it did last year.

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Last Updated April 14, 2011