When I Say Student, You Say Power...

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Students from the three state universities marched on the Capitol Wednesday demanding legislators re-think the proposed budget cuts that would reduce state support for public universities by as much a 40 percent by Fiscal Year 2010.

The protesters carried signs saying “budget cuts are nuts” and “invest in me” and chanted “Hey, hey, Ho, ho, These budget cuts have got to go!”

Officials from the three state universities rallied the crowd and denounced the cuts, saying it would be the “end of the university system as we know it.”

Members of the Democratic caucus came out in support of the protest, taking the microphone to declare their dedication to public education. Democratic Sen. Paula Aboud of Tucson stood in front of the estimated crowd of 2,500 students pumping her fist in the air and crying, “Fight! Fight! Fight!”

The protest was held from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on the capitol lawn in Phoenix. Students from the three state universities were encouraged by teachers and administrators to take the day off school and catch the free buses from UA, ASU and NAU to make their voices heard.

They were definitely heard--it was a hard thing to miss looking out the windows of the capitol building--but it’s still unclear what difference it will make.

Republican Rep. Frank Antenori of District 30 says the protest may actually work against the cause.

Giving the students the day off school and spending university funds to bus them down to the Capitol to complain is a bad way to go about it, he says.

“I don’t think it’s a smart move,” he says. “It doesn’t help.”

UA President Robert Shelton says he believes almost all the legislators want to hear the student voice and know that the students understand the impact these cuts would have.

“The decisions that are made here are going to affect these students and probably some of their younger siblings for years to come,” Shelton said. “I think (the protest) will make a huge difference.”

But Spencer Smiley, a UA student who rode a school-provided bus from Tucson to the protest says students will “most likely have to do it again.”

“Most definitely!” somebody passing by shouted.

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