Activist group The Students Speak dedicated their full attention and energy to UT administrators and state legislators in a rally on Wednesday to protest budget cuts.
About 100 students participated in the rally, which started at the statue of Martin Luther King Jr. and ended at the Capitol, where President William Powers Jr. testified before the Senate Finance Committee. Throughout downtown, they chanted They say cut back, we say, fight back, and wore red T-shirts with No Budget Cuts on the back. Their posters boasted slogans such as Budget Cuts have Faces and Save Our Staff.
The College of Liberal Arts will lose $3.5 million in funding over the next three years, said Richard Flores, the colleges senior associate dean for academic affairs.
The first $1 million cut will impact Liberal Arts centers, including those for Womens and Gender studies, Asian American Studies and Mexican American Studies, according to a recommendation plan released by the Academic Planning and Advisory Committee. The committee includes faculty from nine departments, and its proposals are part of the colleges considerations in cuts.
We are being realistic, and we understand that cuts will have to be made in some fashion, but we are waiting to see what final decisions will be made by the dean of liberal arts, said Luis Guevara, program coordinator for the Center for Mexican American Studies.
Liberal Arts Dean Randy Diehl is meeting with different departments and centers before finalizing the cuts in a few weeks, Flores said. He said it will be hard to make cuts that the Legislature is asking the University to make without hurting the students.
Flores said the centers are not seeing the worst impact of the budget shortfall. Many departments already lost funding last semester, he said.
The Students Speak coalition, which organized the rally, started last semester in response to the cuts the advisory committee proposed to the centers.
Austin resident Reuben Hayslett participated in the rally because he said he knows the importance of ethnic and gender studies. He said he attended Georgia Southern University for writing and linguistics, but the major no longer exists because of slashed funding.
I think the centers are important because they offer a chance for more critical thinking, Hayslett said.
Religious studies senior Caitlin Eaves said if it wasnt for the Center for Womens and Gender Studies, she would not be doing her honors thesis.
I came here and I needed guidance, Eaves said. I needed to know what queer women in history have done. I needed to be able to locate myself in history.
Eaves said the center helped her by providing quality courses and excellent faculty members who proved to be great mentors.
The Students Speak is organizing another rally on March 12. Eaves said the group wanted to hold a Saturday rally so parents and other working adults could participate.