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Students protest Legislature's proposed budget cuts on UA Mall

By David J. Cieslak
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 4, 1999
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Physics and astronomy sophomore Tim Bowers speaks to a group of students about the proposed budget cuts by the Arizona Legislature. Students at UA, ASU and NAU campuses held rallies yesterday to protest the proposal.

ASUA officials yesterday joined about 100 UA students on the Mall to condemn the Arizona Legislature's proposed university budget cuts.

The Arizona Students Association organized the protest to denounce the state Joint Legislative Budget Committee's proposal to cut $6.5 million out of the university's budget and endanger 90 faculty positions.

"Students aren't going to take this anymore," Associated Students President Tara Taylor told the crowd. "We're not going to let you do this to us."

University of Arizona Faculty Chairman Jerrold Hogle joined student leaders on the Mall to fight the legislature's proposal.

"Sometimes the faculty and students disagree about things, but not about this," Hogle said. "The faculty are right with you."

Rep. Jean McGrath, R-Glendale, said yesterday she backs a plan introduced by a fellow lawmaker that asks university instructors to increase productivity by spending 18 more minutes per week in the classroom.

"We would like to see some of the professors teach a few more hours than they're teaching now," McGrath said. "We're not taking teachers away. We're just not funding as many teachers as the university would like us to fund."

McGrath also said the student activists need to present the Legislature with factual information, not mere conjecture.

"If you want to influence me, you'd better show me some facts that my position is wrong and that's not happening," McGrath said, adding that she doesn't listen when people "stand around and complain."

One activist, political science sophomore Diana Chen, said she became involved because she wants to see improvements in Arizona's educational system.

"I want to ensure that the quality in Arizona gets better," Chen said. "We're starting to create a world-class institution and I want to keep it that way."

The rally, organized by the three ASA directors and ASUA officials, was duplicated at Arizona State and Northern Arizona Universities.

Holding picket signs painted with slogans blasting the Legislature, a group of students including ASA Director Adam Talenfeld traversed the UA Mall attempting to inspire the otherwise apathetic sun-worshippers lying on the grass.

"Most of the students at the UA have a limited knowledge of this issue because there's so many issues out there," he said after the rally.

But Talenfeld said he thinks the protest sent a message to legislators.

"That's the most effective way ASUA could put pressure on the Legislature," he said.

As Talenfeld and his crew shouted "show us the money" at TV news cameras, Taylor said higher education is more important than a budget cut.

"I hope it has an effect on the Legislature," she said. "This is mostly for our students to help them understand that they can make a difference."

But in return for their signatures on an oversized poster board, students were served about $200 worth of pizza, paid for by the Arizona Students Association.

"It was kind of an incentive to get people out there," Taylor said. "It was saying 'learn a little something about this and get something back.' Usually the students aren't excited about what the Legislature is doing."

In an effort to keep the activists safe, ASUA also spent $44 per hour to bring a Rural Metro Corporation ambulance to the UA Mall.

Paramedic Vera Wuerfel said ASUA summoned the ambulance in case anyone got heat sickness.

"Anytime you gather this many people, you have to be prepared for anything," Wuerfel said. "We're not afraid anything's going to happen but you have to be prepared."