State employees rally for higher education

Omar Gamboa

Members of the Texas State Employees Union rallied for full public funding of higher education at West Mall.

By holding the rally, members of the union hoped to gain members and add signatures to their petition aimed at convincing the state Legislature to cease further financial cuts to education, said Anne Lewis, UT senior lecturer and representative for the TSEU.

Lewis said the group is primarily concerned with stopping proposed tuition increases at the University. During the rally, participants said “stop the addiction to increased tuition,” expressing their opposition to any existing proposals.

The McCombs School of Business’ College Tuition and Budget Advisory Committee has discussed propositions this month to increase tuition for residents by $160 each semester and slightly more than four times that amount for non-residents, news that Lewis said she found distressing.

She said the group also hopes to limit staff layoffs and cuts to faculty and staff health care.

“There’s a lot of optimism in our group, and as far as we’re concerned, everything can be reversed,” Lewis said. “Our large campus has so much responsibility — with 50,000 students and 12,000 to 14,000 employed.”

Founded in 1980, TSEU has succeeded in passing numerous grievances in the Legislature. In 2003, the union halted cuts in graduate student workers’ health benefits, a goal that Lewis said the TSEU was alone in fighting for.

After the rally, the TSEU held a discussion panel to clarify the immediate goals of the union with the rally attendees.

One of the speakers, assistant English professor Snehal Shingavi, said the way education is heading seems to be similar to the direction of giant corporations like Wal-Mart, with students as the commodity.

“Public education was meant to give opportunity to rise out of the lower classes,” Shingavi said. “Instead, it’s just a cash cow.”

UT alumnus Will Roger, a union member since 1983, said the state believed in investing in students when he attended college in the 1960s and the increases in tuition since then make no sense.

“Because of my education, I was able to get a decent job, raise a family, pay my taxes and generally repay the public investment that the state made in me,” Roger said.

Another main concern of the union was stated in their chant “they say privatize — we say unionize.” TSEU lead organizer Jim Branson said one of his main concerns is keeping education away from the private sector.

“It’s time that public universities 

Printed on Friday, October 14, 2011 as: State employees rally for higher tuition, staff layoffs