University students, faculty rally for support

Support the U Day drew students from all U campuses to rally for the $225 million budget.

The State Capitol’s rotunda came alive Wednesday with the Support the U Day rally. Pompoms and giant M’s waved as speakers revved up the crowd.

More than a hundred students and faculty from all five University of Minnesota campuses came together to urge legislators to approve this year’s $225 million budget request.

University President Bob Bruininks started the rally by talking about the pride of the University community.

“Every time I go out, I realize how deep the passion is for the University of Minnesota,” he said.

This year, the University is seeking funds, specifically for on-campus building improvements.

About $100 million of the $225 million will go toward building maintenance as part of the Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement fund.

The additional projects include a new Science Classroom Building and Bell Museum of Natural History, which will be built in St. Paul.

Both the Minnesota Student Association and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly are pushing for the approval of the Science Classroom Building renovation request of $48 million.

GAPSA Vice President for Public Affairs Matt Schmitt said it’s important to replace the building in order to provide students with the right technology to help them succeed in the future.

“We want to replace that ugly building,” he said. “We are concerned with these issues, and we students are paying attention.”

The reason the Science Classroom Building was added to the bonding bill is because it is an inadequate building, Donna Peterson, associate vice president of University Relations, said.

“Some of the most important aspects of almost every single undergraduate’s education goes through that building,” she said. “It’s a building that needs a lot of work.”

State Auditor Rebecca Otto spoke at the rally about the importance of the University to Minnesota’s economy.

“The heart and soul of Minnesota is our higher education system,” she said. “The U of M is vital to our economy.”

The reason Support the U Day has been such a success in the past is because of the students’ concern for the University, Peterson said.

“The students that are advocating for these projects are really wonderful volunteers and ambassadors for the University,” she said.

The legislators pay attention to these rallies and they listen to what the students have to say, Peterson said.

“There is a lot of cynicism today about our elected officials and I think most of that is not well placed,” she said. “Legislators put a high level of importance on the students coming in.”

MSA President Emma Olson and legislative affairs committee chairwoman Alicia Smith said they encourage students to talk to lawmakers.

“Students can get out to their Legislature and the legislators and really make an impact,” Olson said.

Otto agreed.

“They need to understand that they have a lot of power and they need to exercise that power,” she said.