More than 100 students rallied in the State Capitol rotunda Friday 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 gives the University $39 million in capital funding — less than a quarter of its $170 million request.
Both the Senate and House bills allocate $35 million to Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement funds for the University. HEAPR funds allow the University to maintain, renovate and retrofit 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 built its bonding proposal in October, now-Senate Majority Leader Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, wasn’t optimistic about fulfilling all the University’s bonding 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 Chairman Joshua Preston took the podium at the rally. He 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 Capitol rotunda.
At the Center for Transportation Studies table, Lacey Braun, a sophomore studying journalism, 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 sophomore studying biology, society and the environment, 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, but it’s hard to concentrate on it when you’re concentrating on school work,” he said.