Students advocate funding request

MSA students met with local legislators at the State Capitol.

by Katherine Lymn

Student representatives from the University of Minnesota met yesterday with local legislators at the State Capitol in St. Paul to lobby for University project funding. âÄúSupport the U DayâÄù is an annual event hosted by the Minnesota Student Association, whose members made up the majority of attendees. In one meeting, Rep. Phyllis Kahn and Sen. Larry Pogemiller, both DFLers representing the University area, sat down with students who advocated for the projects proposed in the UniversityâÄôs 2010 capital request. âÄúWe know the significant impact young people have âÄî especially students,âÄù said MSA Legislative Affairs Chairman Paul Buchel. âÄúWeâÄôre not bogged down by cynicism.âÄù Proposed biennially, the capital request details projects for which the University wants funding. The top priority in the capital request is for $100 million in funding for systemwide upgrades and repairs on existing buildings. Folwell Hall renovations, which were line-item vetoed in the state bonding bill in 2008, are the highest priority for specific projects, said MSA President Paul Strain. The University is asking for $34.5 million to improve classroom heating, air conditioning and technology. Global studies junior Jermaine Elliott attended âÄúSupport the U DayâÄù to advocate Folwell renovations. He had his first class in the building this year and said he thinks the disparities between the facility and, for example, facilities for the Carlson School of Management are unfair. âÄúExperiencing the lack of resources in [Folwell Hall] is unfortunate,âÄù Elliott said. In the meeting with Kahn and Pogemiller, the group of about 15 students chatted with lawmakers in a board room at the Capitol and was persistent in making their requests clear. Strain stressed Folwell HallâÄôs historical significance and indisputable old age. âÄúItâÄôs a difficult building for education, but itâÄôs a beautiful building,âÄù he said. Both Khan and Pogemiller voiced support for most projects students mentioned. âÄúFolwell was old when I was there. We thought it was a dump then,âÄù Pogemiller said. Pogemiller said he was interested in student input and asked the student representatives what they saw as the schoolâÄôs best merits. StudentsâÄô replies varied, from the UniversityâÄôs modernization to its location, but all related back to the bonding requests in some way. One trend among students at the meeting was complaints of high tuition, which Kahn attributes to Gov. Tim PawlentyâÄôs resistance to raising taxes. âÄúThe problem, really, is in the governorâÄôs office,âÄù she said. âÄúUntil we get some [tax] money coming in, weâÄôll just totally end up with cuts in the budget.âÄù In a presentation for attendees before the trip to the Capitol, Dana Bacon of the UniversityâÄôs Federal Relations team briefed students on the benefits of the request. The presentation is new for this yearâÄôs âÄúU Day,âÄù and Strain said it helped the event to go more smoothly. Bacon explained the bill is basically for borrowing money or bonds for construction projects. The SenateâÄôs bonding bill, which was passed through the chamber Tuesday, is more favorable to the University. Allocating $111.3 million to the UniversityâÄôs projects gives more money for HEAPR and Folwell Hall, as well as seed money for a new physics and nanotechnology building the University wants $80 million for. The House bill, less favorable to the University by about $35 million, was approved by a committee Tuesday afternoon but may not be voted on by the whole body for some time, Bacon said.