Students rally at the Capitol for ‘Support the U Day’

The annual rally sought to encourage students to speak to their legislators.

Minnesota Student Association member Colin Burke speaks with Tom Devine, a candidate for the Board of Regents, about the importance of the University of Minnesota to the state on Friday at the Capitol. Students pushed legislators during “Support the U Day” to give more financial support to the University.

Minnesota Student Association member Colin Burke speaks with Tom Devine, a candidate for the Board of Regents, about the importance of the University of Minnesota to the state on Friday at the Capitol. Students pushed legislators during “Support the U Day” to give more financial support to the University.

Greta Kaul

More than 100 students rallied Friday in the state Capitol rotunda  to show support for the University of Minnesota.

Attended by students from all five University campuses, the “Support the U Day” rally focused on the University’s stake in the state bonding bill and the rising cost of tuition. The goal? Getting students to speak to legislators.

“They’re probably tired of hearing from me, but they can’t be tired of hearing from you,” University President Eric Kaler told students.

The rally came on the heels of bad news for the University: The Minnesota Senate released a bonding bill proposal Wednesday that would give the University $39 million in capital funding — less than a quarter of the University’s $170 million request.

Both the Senate and House bills would allocate $35 million to Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement funds for the University. HEAPR funds the maintenance, renovation and retrofitting of buildings on campus.

Both bills also included $4 million toward renovating the Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories. The Senate and House proposals ring in at nearly $40 million less than Gov. Mark Dayton’s University funding proposal.

When the Board of Regents finalized its bonding proposal in October, now-Senate Majority Leader Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, wasn’t optimistic about fulfilling all of the University’s requests.

“We’re not going to have a lot of money to, frankly, build new buildings,” he told the Minnesota Daily in October, noting that Minnesota has a lot of roads, bridges and wastewater infrastructure in need of renovation.

Student Senate Chair Joshua Preston took the podium at the rally and said that the state was dismissing the University as an “economic engine.”

“Mr. Speaker, Mr. Majority Leader, Mr. Governor — how dare you. Shame on you,” he said.

After the rally, the “Minnesota Rouser” broke out among a crowd of students.

Exhibits showcasing the work of University organizations and centers ringed the rotunda.

At the Center for Transportation Studies’ table, Lacey Braun, a journalism sophomore, helped set up a display explaining the center’s research, educational and outreach importance to the state of Minnesota. She said she planned to speak with representatives from her home district later in the day.

“Hopefully, [students’] personal student stories will begin to highlight the impact of all that we do on the population and the economy of the state,” Kaler said.

Eddy Nzaro, a biology, society and  environment sophomore, said he thinks students are too busy to see the connections between state cuts and their education.

“If [students] knew more about what was going on, they would be concerned,” he said, “but it’s hard to concentrate on it when you’re concentrating on school work.”