Student support critical as group hosts advocacy writing event

School of Public Health’s Student Senate held a letter writing event Tuesday evening to mobilize concerned SPH students.

Add the University of MinnesotaâÄôs School of Public Health to the increasing number of schools turning to advocacy in light of future budget cuts. The SPH Student Senate, the acting public health student association of the University and part of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, held a letter-writing event Tuesday evening to mobilize concerned SPH students. About a dozen graduate students filled the lounge in the Mayo BuildingâÄôs Student âÄúSPHereâÄù to write letters to their districtâÄôs legislators. For SPHSS President Debby Caselton , the event served as a precursor to next WednesdayâÄôs Support the U Day , where hundreds of students from across the state-wide University system will head to the Capitol to appeal to legislators set on putting the UniversityâÄôs federal funding on the chopping block. âÄúWeâÄôre not going to sit back and let them do this without voicing what we have to say,âÄù Caselton said. GAPSA Public Affairs Assistant Jasmine Blanks said a bus will pick up students from all around campus and take them to the Capitol. Students have more concerns as a result of the UniversityâÄôs economic problems, Blanks said, and she hopes students become motivated to address these issues at Support the U Day and with the deans of their own schools. Those at the letter-writing event who planned to attend Support the U Day will be bringing their letters with them to give to legislators. Students who canâÄôt go will have their letters brought to the State Capitol for them. One graduate student, Sarah Savengseuksa , cited the UniversityâÄôs reputation as a top public health institution as a reason why she was compelled to write a letter to her representative. Adam Leonard, a n SPH graduate student, said it was vital that SPH and other fields that contribute to the health and the well-being of people receive state support. âÄúOtherwise, we lose our ability to educate the next generation,âÄù he said. Minnesota Student Association Legislative Affairs Chairwoman Alicia Smith said she hadnâÄôt heard about the event, but that any effort to help the student body in terms of talking to legislators is a good thing. Smith said she expected there to be a good size of graduate students in attendance at FridayâÄôs Support the U Day. Talking with the dean Directly preceding the letter writing event, SPHSS held a panel discussion with SPH Dean John R. Finnegan Jr. and several chief officers to discuss what could potentially get cut, as well as how tuition, which the dean sets, might be affected next year. Although a 7.5 percent tuition increase for undergraduate students has been indicated for next year, Finnegan will ultimately decide how much SPH tuition is increased. Caselton said it was unlikely that funding for research and teaching assistants would decrease, but that nothing had been decided yet. SPHSS Vice President Emily Wang said the panel was a good opportunity for students to let the dean know what theyâÄôre feeling.