| Western Michigan University Students, Faculty Protest Gov. Rick Snyder's Proposed Funding Cuts|
April 14, 2011/Kalamazoo Gazette
KALAMAZOO — Students, faculty members and university organizations gathered on Western Michigan University's campus Thursday to protest Gov. Rick Snyder's proposed cuts to higher education.
Banging five-gallon buckets, they chanted, "They say cutbacks, we say fight back!"
Vincent Desroches, a WMU professor in the department of foreign languages, said his department has already had to cut part-time jobs and the number of courses being offered next school year as a result of Snyder's proposed budget.
He said the cutbacks will limit WMU's ability to educate first-generation college students, something the university prides itself on.
"The working class have a harder time sending their children to college," Desroches said. "The future of higher education will impact who will be our future leaders."
Max Koopsen, president of the WMU Honors Student Association who was arrested during a protest in Lansing last month, spoke about how the proposed cuts would increase tuition and lower the quality of education for students. He cited other recent protests as inspiration.
"People around the world are realizing that they have the power to change the system," he said.
At the rally, protesters signed letters directed to the governor and area lawmakers, urging them not to go through with the proposed budget cuts to higher education.
The crowd marched to the post office at the Bernhard Center after the rally to mail the letters.
"Higher costs and fewer benefits, precipitated by state cuts to higher education, will drive bright young people out of our state at a time when Michigan cannot afford to lose talent," the letters states."If your proposed cuts are enacted, Michigan will rank 48th nationwide in funding for higher education. We want no part of that race to the bottom."
Kalamazoo City Commissioner Don Cooney got the loudest cheers from the crowd when he took the microphone and said, "We're being lied to," citing statements from leaders in Lansing that the state is broke.
"There is plenty of money in Michigan," Cooney said.
Cooney reiterated a common point among the speakers, saying Snyder and other politicians are more interested in helping big businesses than aiding college students.
"The most valuable resource we have is people," he said. "We need to invest in them."
Other concerns voiced by speakers included students' heavy reliance on student loans, larger classes, fewer instructors and fewer class offerings, making it more difficult for students to finish their degrees on time.
As Desroches began following the protesters toward the post office, he looked as happy as a child walking toward a birthday cake.
"This is exciting!" he said. "We have some young leaders here."
Contact Anthony Smigiel at email@example.com or 269-388-3933.