Students march at ASU, protest possible cuts

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March 4, 2010

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- More than a hundred students marched on the Augusta State University campus Thursday, protesting proposed budget cuts that could slash programs and staff from the school.

The group rallied with chants of "save our schools, save our schools" as the march ended on the steps of the Maxwell Performing Arts Theater.

It was a fitting destination because eliminating the drama program is just one idea ASU submitted to the Board of Regents.

Ending the program would save $151,000 and cut two staff positions. The school could see cuts totaling more than $8 million overall, though state lawmakers now hint education cuts will not be as severe as thought.

ASU also told the Regents that money could be saved by ending the nursing program and cutting back on grounds keeping, school security and other academic support staff.

"It's absurd," sophomore Brandon Turkowsky said. "Why are we not making cuts somewhere else? We need to focus on education more than anything else."

Organizers on campus wanted to turn the anger into action.

"Let's make some phone calls right now, get those phone lines ringing," shouted sophomore Carrie Shoultz, who organized the event.

She read out phone numbers of state representatives as many in the crowd stored those numbers in their cell phones.

Students across campus are questioning what happens if their programs disappear, or if tuition spikes.

"If my tuition goes up, I'm not not going to be able to go here. The reason I go to ASU is because it's affordable and it's close to home," said English major Kanisha Parks. She said she doesn't know what she'll do if tuition is raised.

It has been a rocky week on campus after news of the budget proposals broke over the weekend.

"Nursing students were crying, people were crying in classes. Teachers canceled classes," said Katonya Clark, who is planning to start the nursing program this year.

In addition to the march, people also circulated petitions that will be sent to lawmakers. It was a level of involvement that caught some off guard.

"Students these days tend to have a reputation of being really apathetic," Shoultz said. "I'm glad that students are getting involved and getting active."

ASU president Bill Bloodworth also spoke to the crowd, urging them to keep fighting for their school.

Students say the state needs to find other ways to fix the budget.

"Cutting education may be a short term solution to the budget crisis, but it creates long term problems," Shoultz said, noting that property values fall when schools decline.

ASU students were not alone in their protest. March 4 was selected as a day of student protest nationwide. Dozens of states are grappling with education cuts and groups organized events through blogs and Facebook.