By Joshua Newhall
Governor Malloy’s recent round of budget cuts clearly indicate that the financial crisis in Connecticut is far from finished. Even though the governor vetoed the state’s prior budget the threat of budgetary restrictions still looms over the heads of many state-run organizations.
This round of budget cuts hit the Connecticut State University system particularly hard, delivering affects that both students and faculty at the universities felt. In order to meet reductions in the budget, faculty members agreed to take three furlough days, or uncompensated days off, which has negatively affected both them and their students who have subsequently lost class time. Faculty members of the schools also received a three percent salary decrease and lessened benefits. Lastly, it is likely that student tuition, housing and meal plan fees will rise because of these proposed budget changes, along with reductions to financial aid.
As these changes to the state’s budget were clearly bound to impact the quality of education received at state run campuses around Connecticut, the CSU community decided to take action and express their concerns at the epicenter of these reforms, Hartford. On September 27th a plethora of professors, faculty and students from all of the State’s colleges protested at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.
At this rally both students and faculty displayed their discontent for what they deemed a misappropriation of states funding away from public universities. All of the Connecticut State Universities and UConn had representatives present at the rally, including Eastern’s own Elena Tapia, David Stoloff and Theresa Bouley. Along with the presence of these Eastern professors, there were also Eastern students that took the time to voice their concern at this event. Among them, Megan Hull, senior of Eastern’s Political Science department and president of the Pre-Law Society. At the rally, Megan was able to address the press and fellow rally attendees about her personal quarrels with these new restrictive budget cuts. She gave her own story, one that can resonate with the majority of the student body at Eastern and the other state universities of Connecticut. Megan, along with her full-time student status at Eastern, also has worked full-time in order to support her education for most of her life. While she already had concerns about the debt she acquired from receiving her undergrad, Megan now faces the risk that attendance to her dream law school at UConn could be threatened by budget reforms such as this one. In her closing plea, she directly addressed the state’s lawmakers “…from both parties, to do what you were elected to do, and represent the people of Connecticut’s interests and come to a bipartisan agreement on a fair, equitable and fiscally responsible budget.”
While the future of the Connecticut State Universities’ budget is unclear, the September 27th rally certainly made one thing clear, that the body of students and faculty that were affected by this budget change will not sit by idly without vocalizing their concerns. As the state’s representatives continue the process of organizing the budget it is evident that they must reconsider the value they place in their public education, since there appears to be a clear disconnect between how the attendees of this rally and their representatives feel about how to meet these budget constraints. No matter what the outcome of the next budget proposal is, it is clear that the faculty and students of the Connecticut State Universities will stand united in order to protect their community and their education system.