Students protest proposed funding cuts

Scott Viau

Late Wednesday, March 23, at 10:30 p.m., nine students from NMU boarded a bus in order to travel to Lansing to attend a higher education rally, which protested Governor Rick Snyder’s proposed cuts to Michigan universities.

The students traveled throughout the night, some sleeping, some too excited to sleep. The seven hour bus ride brought them to Lansing around 6:30 a.m., where students ate breakfast and awaited their meeting with Senator Tom Casperson and Representatives Ed McBroom and Steve Lindberg.

ASNMU off-campus representative Dani Thoune was one of the students who were there to protest. She said the protest was something she wanted to see done and that it was done by students at Northern.

“We can send letters and we can make phones calls, but nothing has quite the presence as being there and being in their face, so to speak,” Thoune said.

Thoune said that although meetings with Casperson and other representatives had been accomplished, she would have liked to have met with Governor Rick Snyder himself.

“It’s something that we kind of looked into but seemed too out of the question,” Thoune said. “If he would’ve been able to sit down and talk with us it has a little bit more of an impact. I don’t think they realize what it’s truly like to be a student anymore.”

Meeting with the politicians was relatively easy, Thoune said. Casperson not only invited students to come down but also gave a monetary donation that would allow them to do so.

“It was really cool to get to see how eager he was to talk to us,” Thoune said. “It’s nice that we got to talk to him, and it was even better that he wanted to talk to us.”

Thoune said she thought the presence of the students at the rally was amazing, even though not all of the 15 public universities showed up.

“We had high school students showing up. It kind of gave me a chill to realize there are students younger than myself, not even in college yet, who really do care about their education.”

Although Thoune was happy with the attendance at the rally, she thought there were some people in attendance who were discourteous both on the steps of the Capitol and when they went inside to continue their protest.

“For people to spit on the steps on the Capitol was very disrespectful and sometimes the things that people were saying,” Thoune said. “When we got into the Capitol I could’ve done without some of the attitudes and some of the things that were being said.”

Thoune said she can never be sure whether or not the protest will have the intended result, but wants to be able to say she did her part to help make the change.

“I went to the rally because anything I can do can only benefit. I can put all of my effort into it and I can say, ‘Hey, I tried’ and if I fail that’s okay,” Thoune said. “If I succeed, then I know I did something to help it, to support it.”

Senior marketing major Alysa Diebolt not only gave a speech at the rally but helped organize it in order for students to attend.

“The rally itself was only two hours and we had been planning it hardcore for probably around six weeks,” Diebolt said. “The number of conferences calls I’ve been on and the number of media phone calls and stuff that we’ve had to do prior was just totally exhausting.”

Although nine students from NMU attended, Diebolt said she was a bit disappointed about the low number and wanted to be able to send a full bus.

“We had a lot of people who were interested, but because it was on a Thursday and in the middle of the week not everyone can not go to class that day,” Thoune said. “It was hard and frustrating that we only had nine students there, but the nine that we had were very passionate about why they were there.”

Chris Hoffman said he thought the rally went smoothly and that the speakers were all very good, but really enjoyed the meetings with the senator and representatives.

“I valued the meeting we had with the legislators very highly,” Hoffman said. “We gained a lot of information on who defends for higher education.”

After a day spent walking the streets of Lansing to meet politicians and then protesting outside the Capitol for two hours, the students boarded the bus to make the trip home, returning almost exactly 24 hours after they had left.