Students push for bond approval at Capitol rotunda

by Coralie Carlson

Goldy Gopher left the sports arena for the political arena Thursday afternoon to join University students in a rally at the Capitol.
Students wanted to persuade legislators to approve the largest bonding request in the University’s history. The approximately 100 students rationalized that building upgrades and faculty raises included in the request would benefit them.
Rally attendees and the furry mascot circled around the Capitol rotunda Thursday afternoon, chanting “Two-Four-Nine” and singing the Minnesota rouser. Amid the shouts and song, students explained the impact a $249 million capital request and $41.5 million supplemental request would have on their education.
So far, the House has rubber- stamped the proposals, but the supplemental portion of the package suffered a $9.5 million cut in a Senate committee Wednesday. Differences will be hammered out when representatives from both houses meet in a conference committee.
Student Legislative Coalition President Cheryl Jorgensen said the rally illustrated student backing for the request.
“This has a lot of support and a loud voice behind it,” said Sabeen Altaf, a College of Liberal Arts junior. A similar rally held Wednesday saw 300 Minnesota State Colleges and Universities students raid the rotunda to plug the system’s own request.
Because of strategic timing, representatives heard the University students’ message. Just as the rally began, the House of Representatives session dismissed and lawmakers were greeted by students’ chants. None stayed to address those in attendance.
In addition to planned speeches by students from all campuses, several people gave spontaneous testimonies.
Kate Daly, a CLA senior, said the University needs more money to provide a quality education in the journalism school. “We need faculty, space, time; we need the opportunity to learn what we need to know,” she said.
Several students lamented current classroom conditions, such as poor lighting, leaky ceilings and crumbling plaster. Comments about classroom renovations in the budget plan drew applause from audience members.
The rally, sponsored by a Coca-Cola Campus Life Grant and the office of the vice president for Student Development and Athletics, completes a week of University student lobbying.
On Monday, Morris students met with individual legislators; Crookston and Duluth students did the same Thursday. One of the meetings was with Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, DFL-Erksine. Moe’s district includes the University’s Crookston campus.
With the rally over, concentration will be placed on letter writing, phone call and e-mail campaigns, said Chris Lynch, senior at Morris.
Also on Thursday, the College Democrats stumped for an increase in financial aid during their second annual Lobby Day, organized by University students.
The College Democrats, with 19 chapters in Minnesota, spent the day meeting with specific legislators.
More financial aid will make college more accessible to students, a major issue for College Democrats, said Bemidji State University senior Eric Mitchell.
“Money should not be a deciding factor of whether I’m going to go to a four-year university or a tech school,” Mitchell said.