Inside the Senate Finance committee room, University of Texas President Bill Powers gave a technical testimony on the impact of state budget cuts to higher ed. In the hallway outside the meeting, the message was a little simpler—and a lot louder.
More than 100 students from the University of Texas—some skipping class—gathered to protest against the heavy cuts being proposed to the University of Texas under SB1, the Senate budget bill. The group was loud, proud and diverse, many carrying signs and wearing bright red t-shirts emblazoned with a fist of protest. All the student protestors said that budget cuts would affect them directly.
“The way these cuts trickle down affect my academic health,” Caitlin Eaves, an Arabic and Gender studies major, said. “[Lawmakers] make these decisions in tiny rooms and never see how these cuts directly hurt us. They need to know we hold them accountable.”
When a select group of the protestors came before the senators, they did not hold back. “The budget cuts have faces,” argued one student while another singled out Sen. Patrick, exclaiming, “Shame on you.”
The students weren’t just upset about the state budget cuts—they also took issue with the university’s proposed cuts to specific liberal arts programs, as well a gender studies and language arts, all suggested by the UT academic advisory committee. The cuts are as high as 40 and 50 percent in some areas.
“I don’t care if I am disrespect to President Powers. I was embarrassed to hear him speak … to you today about fair and equitable cuts,” began Ruben Hayslett, a representative from the grassroots group Student Speak. “You’re making a generation of people who can draw pretty triangles, but can’t think for themselves.”
Lawmakers weathered the youthful outbursts with an air of patronization.