The U goes to St. Paul

A day late, a dollar short. If University students do not spend Thursday rallying at the Legislature, they might find themselves a number of dollars short in the coming years. With a looming state deficit, a severely weakened job market and the biggest cuts to the University in more than 50 years, students are in danger of being forced to accept a scaled-down tuition for a scaled-up cost and increased future debt. Rather than rant to the bartender at Sally’s, however, students have a chance Thursday to make their voices heard by the Legislature. Student Legislative Coalition Lobby Day begins 10 a.m. Thursday and is a chance for students to air their grievances or forever hold their peace.

Under Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s proposal, the University would have its funds cut $50 million next year from 2001 levels. This is consistent with Pawlenty’s focus on decreasing the size of government as a whole. It is difficult, however, to fault him for this. In so doing he is appeasing the constituency that got him elected. What students must do is remind the governor, and the rest of the Legislature, that students are part of their legislators’ constituencies and they will be for years to come. Students will remember how they are treated today. As Irving Kristol said, “Democracy does not guarantee equality of conditions – it only guarantees equality of opportunity.”

Thursday is University students’ opportunity to let the Legislature know their priorities. The day begins at 10 a.m. in Coffman Union with a rally led by University President Robert Bruininks. At noon, buses will shuttle students from Coffman Union to the Capitol. At 12:30 p.m., Graduate and Professional Student Assembly and Minnesota Student Association members will testify before House and Senate education subcommittees. The size of the crowds, or lack thereof, however, will be a sufficient testimonial to the Legislature of how seriously it should take the University’s concerns. If students do not care about the University, neither will the state.