“This is what democracy looks like”
By Erica Motter in News
February 16, 2012
On Wednesday, a somber pilgrimage of Lock Haven students held a funeral service to mourn the death of Pennsylvania’s higher education system.
Several “pall bearers” shouldered the weight of the black coffin in a procession that began at Sloan loading dock and wound throughout the campus to its final resting place on Russell lawn.
James Vesey, the student behind the march’s conception, walked at the front of the line.
According to Vesey, the idea for this sort of funeral procession had been tossed around for a few years since an arts faculty position was not refilled, but in light of the proposed budget cuts, it was finally put into action.
After the mourners completed their lap around campus and placed the coffin on display, a handful of funeral attendees podium to give their eulogy.
Vesey spoke first, expressing his outrage at the proposed budget cuts and relating his own tale of being a non-traditional student who came to Lock Haven to pursue a better career.
Communication professor Dr. Girton, who led last year’s rally on the steps of Price Auditorium, addressed the students and remind them that they need to keep up the enthusiasm of last year, pointing out the changes that have already taken place as a result of last year’s budget cuts.
Last year, Lock Haven University was heavily involved in the budget cut protests.
The rally that took place in front of Price was the largest of all the schools, and Lock Haven University sent the largest number of people to Harrisburg in buses.
The hope among protesters is that LHU will continue to lead PASSHE schools in opposing the governor’s budget cuts.
Dr. Cloud, a psychology professor, also spoke and listed some facts about the positive impact of the PASSHE system upon Pennsylvania as a whole.
According to Dr. Cloud, 90 percent of PASSHE students are from Pennsylvania, and 80 percent of PASSHE graduates stay in Pennsylvania after graduating.
Since investing in the state system seems to be an investment in the state’s future, Dr. Cloud considers the funding for the PASSHE system to be “great bang for your buck.”
After political science professor Dr. Stanley Berard spoke, other LHU students got up to speak.
Andrew Brake, who is a senior majoring in political science and philosophy, decried the injustice of Gov. Corbett’s funding, and urged students not to passively accept the budget cuts
“We will not be oppressed, we will not be sold out, and we will not be told ‘No, you can’t’!” Brake said.
“We shouldn’t have to choose between tuition or a roof over our heads, or between a textbook or a tank of gas,” he asserted.
Corey Wilson, another student who helped organize the protest, invited students to attend this year’s rally in Harrisburg and to ask Tom Corbett to tell them “no” to their faces.
Louis Lopez, a student who has become a figurehead for the budget protests, took the stand last.
“Are you ready to fight?” he asked the crowd, who responded with enthusiastic cries of “Yes!”
According to Lopez, Tom Corbert thinks the Pennsylvania student “has no identity, has no voice, and is afraid to stand up for what [he] believes in.”
Yet students attending the protest have their own stories to tell about how the budget cuts have affected them.
“I have seen drops in my state funding, and I’ve been forced to supplement it with my own money. I am one of the only people in my family able to attend college through the PASSHE system, and one day I would like to teach in this state system,” Kyle Brett (junior, English) said.
A fresman music education major, Lauren Grannetino, expressed her fears about the fate of the arts in particular.
“It’s awful what they’re doing with education, especially how they are targeting the arts. We’re losing resources, losing professors, and soon we might not have anything left,” she said.
Vesey and the other leaders encourage all Lock Haven students to get involved, either by attending the march on the capitol in Harrisburg on March 28 or by organizing other ways to protest the cuts.
He stressed that the funeral march is not about the administration or the faculty.
Instead, the focus is on the students, and how Governor Corbett’s attack on the state system is essentially attack on them.
He would like to see the formation of a sort of “student budget defense committee” comprised of LHU’s club leaders, and invites them to contact him if interested.
“This is our time…and we’re going to be the first of many students enacting similar protests across the state leading up to the election in November,” Vesey said.