It was a normal day it would seem on the morning of Wednesday, Nov 10th at the Capitol building in Baton Rouge. The sun was shining down from clear skies, the birds were singing. Soon, however, this tranquility was broken.
Students across the state stood together under one banner at the footsteps of the state Capitol to address the growing problem of the ongoing higher education budget cuts. Carrying signs and chanting catchy phrases related to the budget crisis, the students made their stand defiantly in front of the towering citadel of Louisiana’s capital.
The students first started the morning by marching up the steps of the Capitol building and placing a casket labeled “education” at the entrance, and then made their way back down the steps to begin the rally.
Despite the increased presence of Louisiana State Troopers, the students carried on their protest and finally made their way back up the steps to a podium in front of the entrance to the Capitol. Several students, teachers and alumni from universities all across the state gave their input at the podium on the current budgetary crisis that burdens the universities.
Leading the band of students were Southesatern sociology senior Bradley Ictech and ULL public relations junior Kristen Borchert who acted as master of ceremonies of the rally and introduced the many people at the podium.
“This rally was proof that students can and will mobilize to fight for a quality education,” said Borchert. “We hope that our demonstration of professional, organized, and peaceful protesting will encourage other students and universities to get involved and join forces with us.”
Closing out the presentations for the rally was Southeastern student Gregory Esteven.
“I think that it’s incredibly important to build a student movement in this state, and the formation of the cross-state coalition, Education NOW!, could be the beginning of that,” said Esteven. “As I and so many others said at the rally, this event was only the beginning. It was just the first push.”
Esteven finished his speech at the podium on a memorable quote at the rally before handing the podium back to Ictech and Borchert.
“Looking around at everyone gathered here, I believe that all this is within our power if we only commit ourselves,” said Esteven. “As they said in France in 1968, when workers and students rose up in resistance, “The future will contain what we put into it now.Vive la Louisiane! Long live Louisiana! Fight back!”
At the end of the rally, 10 people had given their input at the podium on the current situation.
“I believe that even after hearing our pleas at the rally, legislators are still not listening. After reading the response from the Governors press secretary, it is apparent we will have to take further action,” said Borchert. “They are telling universities that they must bring more value for the dollars they have, and at the same time taking that funding away. They are telling us to make more value out of less; it’s like telling us to make a decent meal out of bread and water. Higher education is a fundamental tool in an areas economic growth and potential.”
According to The Advertiser in Lafayette,La, Bobby Jindal’s press secretary Kyle Plotkin stated in a response to the rally that the administration was “glad to see students get involved in the process and provide their feedback about how we can get more value from our higher education institutions.The reality is that students and taxpayers are not getting the value they deserve from our colleges and universities.”
Many Southeastern students were in attendance at the rally along with the various outraged students from other universities.
“I thought it was an interesting event that a whole bunch of students can get together and experience this and come together to pull and make a bigger impact than just one student trying to save the school,” said Southeastern Biology senior Christine Lentz. “I thought it was an interesting rally. It was peaceful, i was really pleased with that.”
According to Ictech, his reasons to join in the rally was the constant complaining from teachers about lack of supplies the final decision of cutting Southeastern’s French degree program that will closed down next summer.
“[The teachers] didn’t have all the supplies that they needed,” said Ictech. “I was getting tired of it, and we had to write down these ridiculously long things out of the book because they couldn’t make copies of them. Another example is that they had no markers. Some of the classrooms didn’t even have enough chairs in them, there were students but there were no chairs. It’s the little things, and now we lost our French program and at the end of the summer semester its gone. That’s a huge issue in a state that has French culture.”
One Southeastern student in attendance, who is also a German native, was there to help save foreign language programs.
“I attended the rally to help save the quality of school we use to have because i believe that foreign language is an art and is very important for a well rounded education,” said Southeastern visual arts junior Alexandra Brendt. “I think those majors are important and i think we should try to get them back. ”
Many students attended, however Ictech said that the turnout could have been better had more schools showed up.
“I think the turn out was pretty good. But i think it could of been a lot better because a lot of schools didn’t participate in this [rally],” said Ictech. “I know for fact that the next one is going to be a lot bigger because schools that didn’t participate contacted me afterwards and said ‘we will participate in the next one”
Finishing off the rally at the podium, Ictech declared that this is not the last rally and it “is the beginning of the end,” of the higher education budgetary crisis.
“[The cutting of the French program] was really the last straw for most people and well you’re gonna see, and I’m already seeing that a lot of students are coming to this group saying ‘we want to be apart of this,’” said Ictech. “We have a lot of art students and a lot of French education and French major students so we’re hoping that other students come talk to us and try to get involved.”
Ictech predicts that, with the additional involvement of other schools that weren’t able to make the rally, that the next rally in the spring will be twice as large or possibly three-times as large.