Students converge on Capitol in name of U

“Support the U Day” featured speeches from Bruininks, Rybak.

With maroon-and-gold banners draped over the railing into the State Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday, University of Minnesota supporters from across the state converged on St. Paul to rally support for the University during the legislative session. Armed with signs reading, âÄúTake from our future, take from yours,âÄù and one painted on paper bags reading, âÄúWe canâÄôt even afford poster board,âÄù the theme of the day seemed to be keeping costs down for students with the University facing a proposed $151 million cut over the next two years. Event organizers said they expected more than 300 students to attend and nearly that many filled the Rotunda floor and lined the upper-level railing. Crookston campus alone brought more than 80 students to the rally and the subsequent meetings with legislators. Speakers included students from each of the UniversityâÄôs campuses, as well as University President Bob Bruininks and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. âÄúThe state of Minnesota is tempting its youth with access to a college education that they canâÄôt afford,âÄù said Mike McBride , a political science sophomore at the Morris campus, during his speech. âÄúMy parentsâÄô dream of an affordable higher education for their children has become a nightmare of excessive debt.âÄù Rybak told an anecdote about his father and wife, who both attended the University. âÄúThe dream of an accessible University of Minnesota for every person in this state is slipping away and slipping away rapidly,âÄù he said. âÄúWe cannot allow the dream of an accessible University to go away.âÄù Touching on the response to past budget problems in the UniversityâÄôs history, Bruininks told the audience of students, faculty and others to share their experiences with lawmakers. âÄúThatâÄôs why youâÄôre here today âÄî to express faith in the University and its purpose, but also to express faith in the UniversityâÄôs value to the future of Minnesota,âÄù he said. âÄúI think your advocacy is one of the most important things you can do to make the case for the University and ensure our long term future.âÄù

âÄúWe have a voiceâÄù

After the rally, many student leaders said they hoped the rally and the meetings with individual legislators would have an impact on policy. âÄúIâÄôm a little bit skeptical on that,âÄù University senior Ryan Kennedy said. âÄúI think it has the ability to sway some legislators. I think itâÄôs a crap shoot âĦ I think that the meetings are really where the most effective part of it is.âÄù With a series of meetings with University students and others on her schedule, Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, said face-to-face meetings with advocates can have an impact on an issue. âÄúI think the rally âĦ it certainly doesnâÄôt do any harm,âÄù said Kahn, who represents the UniversityâÄôs district. âÄúDoes it move votes? No, but the problem is that itâÄôs a really tough issue.âÄù In a meeting with a briefing room full of students from the Crookston campus, Rep. Dave Olin , DFL-Thief River Falls, said he considers input from his constituents. âÄúI pay a lot of attention to people who are willing to take the time from way up in northern Minnesota to come down here,âÄù Olin said. âÄúI take that pretty seriously.âÄù When asked by a student if the rally had influence on lawmakers in the budget debate, Olin said he was pleased to see so many students attend. âÄúTo me, IâÄôm happy to see students involved,âÄù he said after meeting with the contingency. âÄúThey did get involved this last year âĦ they did get going and I love to see it. IâÄôm just hoping they stay involved now.âÄù Jonatan Mitchell , first-year class president at the UniversityâÄôs Duluth campus, said he liked the feedback he received from meeting with legislators. âÄúItâÄôs always a struggle to get your voice out there,âÄù he said. âÄúItâÄôs always good to remind them that weâÄôre here and we have a voice.âÄù -Devin Henry is a senior staff reporter.