Rally at the Capitol

Scott Viau

On the streets of Lansing, over 300 students from colleges across the state, including nine students from NMU, gathered to walk to the Capitol in order to protest Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed budget cuts to financial aid.

The rally for higher education occurred Thursday, March 24 and featured speakers such as Lansing mayor Virg Bernero, Representative Joan Bauer and students from Michigan universities. It was put on by the Student Association of Michigan.

In a speech to those in attendance, Bernero welcomed the crowd and spoke encouragingly about what they were doing.

“This is your state capitol. These folks inside, who do they work for?  They work for you,” Bernero said. “Sometimes I think they forget. I for one am so glad you’re here to provide that reminder.”

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero addresses students from universities around the state at the Capitol. Students from NMU traveled to Lansing and back in one day to protest against the proposed cuts to universities. Bernero said he supported students coming to the Capitol and led them in a chant. // Scott Viau/NW

Bernero talked about the politicians who speak about education and young people, but do nothing. He then led the protestors into a chant of “talk is cheap.”

Senior marketing major Alysa Diebolt gave a speech at the protest about how Michigan needs to invest in its students and not cut funds from them.

“It’s simple. This budget hurts students, thousands of them,” Diebolt said. “The combination of increased tuition, decreased financial aid, the threat of university programs being cut and a decreasing graduation rate would hurt students”

Diebolt added that students were the ones who helped put them into the office and that it’s time they started listening to the voters.

After the two hours spent outside the Capitol in Lansing, students then went inside to continue protesting. Throughout the halls the chants of “This is what democracy looks like” could be heard.

Prior to the rally NMU students met with Sen. Tom Casperson of Escanaba and NMU alum Rep. Ed McBroom to discuss how they felt about the proposed cuts. During the meeting, McBroom, Casperson and students shared stories of their own experience with college, financial aid and what students can do about it.

“Don’t let your administrations pull the wool over yours eyes  and say we’re all pulling together for a better cut to higher education because they aren’t,” McBroom said. “They’re pulling for cuts for their own university and they’ll cut your throat first if they need to.”

The students spoke about cuts with NMU alum Representative Steve Lindberg, as well. Lindberg said that he would gladly invest in his future, which he considers to be the students of Michigan.

“You can’t find a family sustaining job anymore unless you’ve got an education beyond high school,” Lindberg said. “We have to have a workforce that’s highly educated. That means we’ve got to make school affordable to people who are middle class.”

Lindberg wowed the students by telling them how much he paid for tuition when he was at Northern in 1962, which was $125 a semester.

“If you put an inflation factor in there over forty years it would be nowhere near what you’re paying today,” Lindberg said. “That’s when the state of Michigan paid 80 percent the cost of schools and students paid the 20 percent.”

He added that it’s the masses that will be able to change things and that the more people who voice their opinion the more likely it is to be heard and recognized.

One of the issues that students had and brought up with Lindberg was that the state of Michigan is spending more money on the Department of Corrections than on higher education. In its 2011 fiscal year budget, Michigan will spend $2,007,983,600 on Corrections and $1,578,278,500 on higher education.