Students holding signs in support of the University of Nevada, and chanting, “We’re Nevada’s future” and “This is nuts, stop the cuts,” rallied in front of the Joe Crowley Student Union on Friday, just days before the Nevada State Legislature is to meet in special session to discuss further budget cuts.
About 200 students gathered on a breezy, gray afternoon that threatened rain. Many of them signed a petition urging legislators and Gov. Jim Gibbons to not implement further budget cuts to higher education.
As economic turmoil has continued to grip Nevada, the University has already absorbed $33 million in budget cuts, University President Milt Glick said.
He urged the gathered students to personally contact their elected representatives to share the reasons why higher education has made a difference in their lives.
“Write your own letter, or call your own legislator and talk to them from the heart,” Glick said.
ASUN Speaker of the Senate Gracie Geremia encouraged students to use any means at their disposal – letter writing, phone calls, e-mails, petitions – to get the attention of the state’s decision-makers.
And, she told the crowd to think of one other option, noting that the under-25 demographic in the country is not only growing, but becoming more politically active.
“It takes five minutes of your time and only about 30 minutes of research … voting,” she said.
ASUN President Eli Reilly said he “had enough” of Nevada ranking near or at the bottom of practically every quality of life indicator in the United States, from education to health care.
“It’s not OK anymore,” Reilly said. “We can’t do this anymore. If Nevada continues to be on this course for mediocrity, what will happen? Nothing.”
“It’s time for us as students of the Nevada System of Higher Education to stand up and say, ‘I’ve had enough,’” he said of the prospect of a new round of budget cuts, which could run anywhere from 10 to 22 percent.
Provost Marc Johnson related how he came to campus in June 2008 from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo. A relatively carefree welcome to campus evaporated one week later when a call for budget cuts from the state of Nevada was made.
“I didn’t come here to be provost and de-construct a very fine university,” he said.
Johnson, whose teaching and education background is as an economist, said Nevada needs a vibrant and growing system of higher education if it is going to compete in a knowledge-based, 21st-century world. Investments in education and health care, he said, represent a key cultivation of human resources that mark a modern, progressive and successful state and nation.
“If we don’t invest in education first,” he said, “we will never achieve these goals.”
Students held signs that ran the gamut, from “Fighting for Your Own U,” to “Mackay is Rolling In His Grave” to “Knowledge is Power … Duh.”
The rally ended with the chant, “We’re Nevada’s Future,” which drew the loudest participation of all.
Said College of Education Sen. Jessica Purney of the loud chant: “I think everybody in the Judicial College can hear us. That’s awesome.”