Rep. Milne, Sen. Dinniman:
At 12:15 p.m. Wednesday, March 1, a large group of students rallied on-campus to protest the funding cuts in Gov. Corbett’s new budget. I was happy to see the turnout – they are justifiably concerned about their ability to receive a college education in Pennsylvania. And I want to know what you, Rep. Milne as a member of the WCU faculty and you, Sen. Dinniman as a former faculty member, can and will do to prevent the slashing of Higher Education funding that comes at a time when ALL EDUCATION should be the state’s top priority. I know there are severe budget shortfalls, and I just read through the new budget. All I know is that the Governor and the Legislature are not serving Pennsylvania well by cutting Education funding at a time when the U.S. has fallen behind so badly that we are becoming a Third World country. The NY Times said back in 2010 “The United States used to lead the world in the number of 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees. Now it ranks 12th among 36 developed nations.” Without a superior education the generation that will lead the U.S. in the next 20-50 years will be even more handicapped by not having the tools that will help them get America back on track.
From the Pew Survey published in the Chronicle of Higher Education in May 2011, “Is College worth it?” – “Most graduates say college was very useful on key goals. Among college graduates in the survey, 74% say their college education was very useful in helping them increase their knowledge and grow intellectually; 69% say it was very useful in helping them grow and mature as a person; and 55% say it was very useful in helping them prepare for a job or career.” How are the upcoming students going to afford college to improve their intellectual ability, maturity and preparation for a job or career with all the budget cuts the state plans to make?
I would like to know what I as a citizen, a voter, a resident of Pa. can do to let the governor know that cutting education funding is the WORST MEASURE the state can possibly take. Surely there must be other areas of funding cuts that can be made to keep education from being decimated. I am sending this letter of support for the hundreds of WCU students who were out Wednesday and Thursday protesting against cuts – they are the ones who will bear the brunt of not having enough money to attend WCU. Many of my fellow students are now working full time and attending classes full time just to afford college! This is detrimental to their GPAs and cuts necessary study time. But they are doing it! This is how much they want that college education.
Why doesn’t someone do a survey among students instead of just college presidents to find out where the problems are? Many college presidents are surrounded by insularity – talking with other college presidents. Granted, there are many who get out on the campus to get to know students, but as a whole, they sit in their “ivory towers” and tell each other that Higher Education is doing fine – the Pew Survey results show a wide discrepancy between what college presidents think, and what goes on in the real world – students hanging on by a thread to juggle jobs, tuition, buy books, attend classes and finish their education. And with these budget cuts they will be looking at enormous student loan debt when they DO graduate. We are short-changing our young generation who will be the leaders in 10 to 30 years by denying them the education they need to maintain America as a leader in so many areas where we excelled just 10 to 30 years ago. If we can reverse this lame decision by PA state government, perhaps we can restore faith in this country that we are still a nation that values education and growth, and give our students the confidence that they CAN and WILL get a valuable education in Pennsylvania.
Additionally, West Chester has some of the best professors trying to educate students in ever larger classes, while working without a contract for close to a year, and still doing a great job! I think the Governor will be looking for a new job when his term is up in 2014!
What can we do to reverse this disastrous trend?
–Barbara Woodin, liberals studies, French and history minors
This past Thursday, the politically-charged, educationally-inclined student in me skipped class. My flat out refusal did not stem from a desire to disengage mentally, but instead actively engage in the bigger picture. You threaten to cut, Corbett, I’ll cut class to prove a point.
As I traipsed across the campus, a buzzing noise grew louder and louder-as if I were walking toward a gigantic, overzealous bee hive. And there, the beautiful image of my peers appeared! No, not a mirage, but an angry, respondent crew: a reactionary “I’m pissed” sign, the bellow and echo of “Out of the classroom, into the streets!” and a hopeful, uncertain energy. What will happen next? When will our shouts be heard? Must we simply shout louder or switch up the logistics?
This powerful energy demanded attention-even standoffish onlookers crept up from the margins of the quad, listening intently. Yes, this affects all of us. No, passivity is not excusable. I refused to sit in class as Tommy C, the elephant in the room, stank up the place. Approaching the rumpus, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked back: One of my professors, demanding that we must go back to class, it is time.
No. I pulled away. “But this is so cool,” I stated, simply. Cool, yes, an understatement. The ability to organize people, resources and emotions and to come together, in solidarity…is extremely cool. The ability to understand the gravity of the situation, and most importantly to not forget that we the people have a voice, and maintain the power to step out of our classrooms and into the streets…is not to be overlooked.
The professor could see the defensive refusal in my body language. She understood, and let me go. Time for class? I think not. In the face of such an issue, why turn my back to it? I prioritized this past Thursday. I chose to (literally) walk away from my class, in order to join my peers in protest.
From one student to another (and to faculty and staff)…continue to boldly step in the opposing direction. And not only during assigned rally times. Too often we as individuals wait until someone schedules such events for us. Do not simply wait to attend a rally, hold a sign, skip class and return to normalcy. No…Thursday is just one dot on the map. Treat everyday like you are protesting. Out of the classrooms, out of the stagnate, passive mindset, into the streets.
–Lily Kotansky, liberal studies, peace and conflict minor
The classroom walk-out that took place last week in protest of the planned budget cuts to PASSHE schools was a bad idea. WCU students and
other PASSHE students should speak out against the draconian budget cuts that are being proposed by Governor Corbett, but a class walk-out is literally the worst possible way to make the case that higher education funding should not be cut. Students should want their legislators to know that they are hard-working and serious about their education. And there are countless better ways for a student to demonstrate seriousness about education than walking out in the middle of class for no particularly good reason.
–Bill Hanrahan, Op-ed Editor