gear up to take on proposed state budget cuts
A USU student signs a protest of proposed state budget
cuts. / Photo by Jackson Olsen
By Jackson Olsen
January 23, 2009 | Concerned students at Utah State
have been making ripples in the water of the state's
political pond in the face of looming budget cuts that
could amount to as much as 19 percent.
The students vary in age, program and background,
but all have a vested interest in Utah State being spared
from the major cutbacks. The budget cuts, as proposed
by the Utah State Legislature this month, will likely
result in increased class sizes, less funding for research,
the dissolution of programs and services, and increased
tuition costs if passed.
Dani Babbel, a senior majoring in anthropology, is
one of the students leading the charge in this effort.
Babbel decided to take her campaign public using the
popular social networking Web site Facebook.
"I had never really done much on Facebook before,
but I just decided that it was time to do something
more," Babbel said. "I couldn't just sit back
and let this happen."
Babbel wasn't alone.
As her group, appropriately named "Save Higher
Education in Utah," swelled to more than a thousand
members in its first two days of existence, Babbel met
a host of students from across the state who felt the
same way she did.
During this same time, the Associated Students of
Utah State University were already knee deep in their
own preparations to battle the newly announced budget
cuts. More specifically, the ASUSU Government Relations
Council (GRC) had already planned an on-campus rally
to feature students and administrators who were against
the budget proposal. Additionally, a rally at the Utah
State Capitol was being coordinated. The cherry on top
of these ambitious plans is a circulating petition for
which the GRC intends to collect 10,000 signatures.
"This is something that the students really care
about," said Adam Blanch, a senior in international
studies and a member of the GRC. "They know that
no matter who they are or what they're studying, they're
going to be affected by the cuts."
Blanch said the message that the students are trying
to get across to the Legislature is that higher education
is Utah's most valuable investment, citing that students
are the future leaders, voters and taxpayers of the
Over the last two weeks this cause has picked up an
unprecedented amount of momentum. The Facebook group
has recruited 4,000 members, and meanwhile student organizations
have pledged their support to help reduce the budget
cuts. Among the contributing groups are the Interfraternal
and Panhellenic organizations, Residence Housing, the
department of anthropology, each of the university's
seven college councils, the Graduate Student Senate,
and several other campus clubs and organizations.
The students have thrown their support behind an alternative
budget proposal given by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. The governor's
plan calls for a less drastic 11 percent cut to the
higher education budget, and also an implementation
timeline that allows the cuts to take place over the
course of two years. According to Huntsman, his proposal
will make the cuts easier to absorb.
While the efforts of these students has yet to gain
the attention of the mainstream media or the majority
of the Legislature, they intend to change all that when
they rally on Capitol Hill on Jan. 30. After the rally,
they will present their petition to the state lawmakers.