It’s a rare occasion when IUP is cheering for the same outcome as Slippery Rock University.
In an Association of Pennsylvania State Colleges and Universities Faculties-sponsored funding rally with all 14 universities from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) in attendance, hundreds of students made their voices heard in the Capitol Rotunda of Harrisburg.
Chants of “fund or fail” were followed by speeches from people who hold political office in Pennsylvania, faculty members of the state universities and students from each of the affected colleges.
“It was our pleasure to sponsor the rally, but everyone needs to know that we only had the rally because students approached us to see what they could do to get involved,” said Dr. Kenneth Mash, APSCUF’s president, in his opening remarks at the event.
“You have more press coverage than I’ve seen at any event so far,” Michael Stack, lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, added before delving into the purpose of the students’ presence.
“Pennsylvania has to invest in our greatest natural resource. Some said our greatest natural resource was natural gas, but we say it’s you guys.
“The cost of student loans has gone up and up, and by the time you graduate from college, you’ve gone bankrupt.
“You don’t need to have a brain to know you have to fund higher education. Together, we will fund higher education.”
“Your presence here is the best thing you could be doing today,” Pa. Rep. Duane Milne said.
“I am so glad you are not in class today. This is the best civics lesson you could have today. It shows you care about your education.”
When students began to realize how the budget cuts of 2011 were going to affect them, many were faced with the difficult decision of being able to attend college or having enough money to eat.
“When I walk on campus, familiar faces are missing,” said Christian Copeland, Millersville University’s student senate president.
“Our budget problems wouldn’t exist if legislators were faced with the same pain as students. Do the right thing.
“Work together to avoid future budget crises.”
IUP’s Student Government Association President Vincent Lopez (junior, political science) also attended the rally and asserted his representation of IUP in a speech.
“We will stand together united as one,” Lopez said.
“Not as IUP, not as PASSHE, but as the state system. We are going to move forward and we are going to make our voices heard.”
“When I went to IUP, my total fees were $3,800. Even with inflation, you should not be paying anywhere near what you are,” said Dr. Jamie Martin, criminology professor and vice president of IUP’s chapter of APSCUF.
Countless speakers from the state universities, students and faculty alike, took turns to express their concerns in the budget impasse and demand a change.
“It was a really good way for all of us to see just how much we play a role in legislature,” said Alexa Titchen (junior, journalism and public relations).
“It felt good to see the indignation in students who are affected by the budget not being passed.”
This year’s state budget will be addressed by Gov. Tom Wolf Tuesday. Yet, last year’s budget hasn’t been distributed.
“I found it enlightening,” Selina Colon (senior, journalism and public relations) said.
“If they couldn’t hear us before, they sure can now.”
Not all of the observations were optimistic about the impact of this event, however.
“They heard us, but this may just give them time to form an excuse about why things aren’t working,” Colon said.
“I wish more students came.”