Students defiantly marched and chanted on campus Tuesday afternoon, demanding answers from the USF administration for the proposed alterations to the Africana studies department, the women’s studies department and Institute for the Study of Latin America and the Caribbean (ISLAC).
Hundreds of students attended the event, and their persistence resulted in a face-to-face meeting with Provost Ralph Wilcox. Wilcox, with fellow administrators nearby, attempted to answer – and at times decipher – questions from protesters.
Yesterday’s protest was a perfect display of an exercise in free speech. It also showed that if students are willing to take time to demand an audience with USF’s officials, the administration will respond. It revealed that not all have succumbed to the sea of apathy that appears to have drowned many U.S. citizens.
How USF is responding is one matter, but the core of the issue – that the University is only considering a merger of programs because of cuts in state funding – has yet to be addressed by students.
Florida’s higher education is in a budgetary crisis, and it is time students took their passion and anger to Tallahassee to demand change.
Cuts to universities such as USF – albeit representative of a state struggling with its commitment to education on every level – are the result of low tuition rates and poor management by politicians.
Two choices for increasing revenue for state universities would be to increase tuition, or raise taxes to ensure that money is put toward higher education.
But politicians are afraid to hurt their chances with their voting base by making such suggestions, and at first glance, higher tuition will frighten students trying to make ends meet. An important lesson from this situation should be that students might not have the programs they want if they are not willing to pay for them themselves.
Nineteen percent of Florida residents are categorized as elderly, according to census.gov. This large percentage of the voting population won’t head to the polls for politicians who want to raise taxes for education, something that no longer affects them or their children.
This is why young people and college students have to act: If we mobilize and say we’re willing to embrace tough but obligatory decisions such as increasing tuition, politicians won’t fear a backlash for doing what’s necessary and right.
Protesters Tuesday spoke out in defense of some degrees that will be altered by the budget cuts, but at the rate Florida is moving, many more will be affected. The sooner USF students realize this and band together for radical change – here and after they graduate – the better.