Legislative session sparks protest

A small group of Florida A&M University students and administrators marched to the capitol where they joined dozens of other area college faculty, administrators and students to protest budget cuts to higher education on Tuesday.
The two dozen FAMU marchers braved the chilly morning temperatures as they walked to the capitol building, where they joined a crowd of about 160 Florida State University students, teachers, administrators and graduate students chanted of “No more cuts” and waved signs that read “Fund Florida’s Future.”
Elizabeth Davenport, associate professor in education leadership who organized the march, said the protest was necessary to the future health of Florida’s higher education.
 “Due to the budget cuts all over the state, higher education is being cut to the bone; we’re not being funded nearly as much as we were as recently as 2006,” Davenport said.
The idea for the march originated with FSU faculty members who were concerned with the budget cuts and “mushroomed out” to the FAMU and Tallahassee Community College campuses, Davenport said.

Speakers at the event included FAMU graduates, state Rep. Alan Williams, who represents District 8, and Tallahassee City Commissioner Andrew Gillum. The protest was timed to coincide with the first day of the new legislative session, which will be dominated by efforts to close a projected deficit in the state’s $66.5 billion budget.

Jaimee’ McKenzie, a 24-year-old social work student from New Orleans, said she participated in the protest because she worried about how the budget cuts will affect the rest of her college career.

“I came to the march because I’m interested in the well-being of my education, and I’m a second semester student so I’m wondering what’s going to happen before I graduate,” said McKenzie.                  

McKenzie said he was worried that less prominent departments could face the ax, while the more high profile School of Business and Industry and the College of Engineering Sciences, Technology and Agriculture could escape unscathed.

“The smaller departments like social work and anthropology could possibly be closed because there’s not a lot of students, so there’s not a big demand,” McKenzie said, “but it’s unfair because those departments are just as important as SBI, Pharmacy and CESTA.”    

Grayle Farr, a 65-year-old graduate of FSU’s anthropology department, said he was disgusted by the actions of state political leaders who have deceived the education community.

“The state of Florida promised us that the budget cuts were not going to impact education and it has, all the way from Pre-K to post graduate,” he said. “It’s a shame and the politicians should be ashamed of themselves.”

Jaclyn Lipnicki, a 19-year-old FSU business and hospitality management student from Boca Raton, said the burden of the budget cuts fall on  students.

“I don’t think it’s fair that Florida state education should be jeopardized because they want to cut the budget,” she said. “I feel that there are better ways to allot the money so that our school along with many others can benefit.”