‘No ifs, no buts, no education cuts’

Students from community colleges around the state sit in the Capitol Rotunda, hearing voice given to concerns on higher education cuts.

Opponents of the state’s impending higher education budget cuts spoke out in defense of their colleges in a student rally Feb 1. Passionate chants of students, faculty and administrators from colleges all over the state echoed throughout the Legislative Building in Olympia.

However, South Puget Sound Community College’s showing was minimal in comparison to the other schools.

The stairs on both sides of the rotunda were filled with students from Tacoma Community College, Clover Park Technical College, Olympic Community College, South Seattle Community College and others.

SPSCC was represented by student senate members Matthew Shrader, Megan Rowland, Michelle Le, and Lihn Huynh, as well as Dean of Student Life David Rector. SPSCC President Pumphrey and SPSCC student Dante Obcena were also present. Beyond that, further SPSCC students were few and far between.

“I tried to get people energized and motivated to come with us,” said Shrader, “but I couldn’t get anyone engaged.” Shrader had made an announcement about the rally via a microphone in the Student Union Building. No students responded.

“It is pretty pathetic,” said Shrader, “people should care about this, it’s their school too.”

According to Rector, who was the driver, the shuttle van provided did not take any students to the Capitol Campus.

“I think it was last year’s lime green t-shirts that got us all the participation last year,” said Rector jokingly, “these blue ones just aren’t flashy enough.”

According to Rector, at this same time last year over 30 SPSCC students went to protest.

“I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that people are so focused on catching up with classes after the snowstorm,” said Rowland, “they’re too busy. Plus we didn’t have time to really get out and promote this.”

Corroborating this point, SPSCC student David Day said, “I didn’t go because I didn’t know [a rally] was going on. The little sandwich boards around campus may have mentioned it but I didn’t take note of them.”

Running Start student William Dimmick said, “I didn’t even know there was a rally. I’ve been so busy doing homework that I barely had any time for myself.”

According to Pumphrey, he would like to see more students make an effort to support the school at these types of events because the more students that get involved, the greater the legislative impact will be.

When the rally began at noon, Obcena was the first to take the podium. As an immigrant, and nursing student, he spoke about how much his education meant to him personally.

“I am amazed that I can get a nursing degree [at SPSCC] without having to go to a four-year university,” he said, “higher education is the great equalizer of our society today.”

Obcena then introduced Pierce College Student Body President Lauren Addler as the next speaker.

“We are students living in our cars or on our friend’s living room couches just to go to school,” said Addler. “If we cannot afford tuition at a two year college then there are no other options for us. Are we not worthy of the state’s protection?”

Pumphrey also spoke about the quality of higher education today, invoking his status as a “geezer” to compare it with life “back in the day.”

According to Pumphrey, years ago, “Made in America” meant that something was of the best quality money could buy.

“We are not going to get back to that standard and compete in our global economy without fixing our educational system,” he said.

Members of the state Legislature also came forward and gave speeches to show their support for higher education and to commend students for their hard work.

Rep. Derek Kilmer spoke about the issue of funding higher education as one of investing now versus paying for the consequences later.

“If you are a high school dropout,” he said, “you make up…50 percent of our prison population. Those with a college degree amount at only 5 percent. If we don’t pay into education now, we will be paying far more into our prisons later.”

Rep. Kilmer said, “I would invite you to turn up the volume. Not just today, but every day in this legislative session.”

Published: Feb. 13, 2011 here.