U rallies students for grassroots action

Bryce Haugen

The “U’ wants you to care about what happens in St. Paul.

As the University Marching Band prepped the crowd, more than 400 supporters gathered at the McNamara Alumni Center on Wednesday night to push the University’s legislative agenda.

President Bob Bruininks said it likely was the largest group to ever gather for this type of event.

“We’re really excited to have so many people show up and agree to put their energy and support into building and strengthening the “U,’ ” he said, walking from table to table before addressing the crowd.

University Alumni Association President Margaret Sughrue Carlson said she was grateful for such a large turnout.

“You are a part of a proud and strong tradition ” and we thank you,” she said to the audience.

When the Legislature reconvenes in March, it will consider an on-campus football stadium as well as several construction projects.

Students need to realize that taking action is in their best interests, said Amy Reasoner, who coordinates the University’s grassroots advocacy efforts.

“An event like this just shows how many people care about the “U’ and are willing to serve it,” she said.

But most students in the crowd ” which included a variety of public and University officials and staff members ” already were involved in University causes.

During lunch at Centennial Hall’s dining center earlier in the day, two first-year students said they supported the requests but were too busy with college life to do anything for them.

Andy Miller, a mechanical engineering student who works for University athletics said he’d really like to see a stadium. But in reality, he said, it’s out of his control.

“If it works out it works out,” he said. “I don’t really have any grounds to complain if I’m not willing to do anything.”

His friend Peter Rohrer, an aerospace engineering student, said he’s from Wisconsin so he’s really not that interested in what’s happening at the Capitol.

Reasoner said events like these will help fight those attitudes. After several speakers, the crowd dispersed into “breakout” sessions, where they discussed ways to get involved.

Tiffany Varilek, student body president at the University’s Duluth campus said it’s simply logical for students to take a little time out of their day to push the University agenda, which includes funding for business school expansion on the Duluth and Twin Cities campuses.

Students can’t learn effectively in a building that’s not designed to accommodate them, she said, referring the Labovitz School of Economics, which she said has outgrown its existing structure.

University Provost Tom Sullivan said supporting the legislative agenda can prepare students for leadership positions after college.

“It’s about learning citizenship and understanding the importance of citizenship in our democracy,” he said.