“Texas fight! Budget cuts suck!” More than 100 UT students chanted as they descended on the Capitol Tuesday afternoon brandishing signs, banners, flags, bullhorns and the usual tools of the democratic process. Despite their youthful brazenness, the student’s message was clear: keep UT affordable, competitive and safe.
The students, many skipping class to participate in the Invest in Texas Legislative day, had come to the Capitol to speak to legislatures about the proposed budget cuts to higher education. The event was organized by the Invest in Texas campaign created by the UT Student Government and 27 other UT student organizations to advocate for students during the 82nd legislature.
“We are using the rhetoric of invest because we want people to know this is not an expenditure but rather an investment.” Emily Chen, one of the event organizers said. “Keeping UT safe, affordable and competitive will yield a higher return on the state’s investment.”
After marching to the Capitol, the students rallied briefly on the South steps of the Capitol where Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, gave short speeches of support. Zaffirini encouraged students to reach out to the Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House. “Speak out boldly,” Zaffirini urged, “but speak out persuasively and always be well informed.”
But the students had come to do more than hoot, holler and throw their horns up. The real work began after the rally was over when the group divided into 30 different teams and dispersed into the hallways and offices of the Capitol building. Student organizers had scheduled meetings with over half of the 180 legislatures and were invited to walk in meetings from many more.
“Students are often accused of not participating in the legislative process and being apathetic,” Muneezeh Kabir, UT student government vice president said, “We want them to know we are listening and our education is at stake.”