On Wednesday night, the University of Connecticut Undergraduate Student Government (USG) and Graduate Student Senate hosted a #SAVEUCONN rally in the Hugh S. Greer Field House.
The rally was in response to the state’s proposed budget cut to UConn of around $300 million, a cut that UConn president Susan Herbst said would decimate the university.
“This rally was put together so that we could send a strong message that we do not support this budget proposal. We need to show our state legislatures that we will not remain silent on these recent budget cuts,” USG president Irma Valverde said.
Valverde said that Connecticut should not put a financial burden on students and their families.
“There is no doubt that the state is not in the best financial situation, but it should not be the burden of students and families across the state of Connecticut to make up for it,” Valverde said.
UConn Graduate Employee Union president Steven Manicastri said the cuts would immensely hurt the quality of UConn students’ education.
“This budget hurts thousands of students who chose UConn as their school and were depending on an affordable institution. Public education is, and always will be, something legislatures should invest in” Manicastri said.
Men’s basketball student manager and director of fundraising services for the UConn Sport Business Association Sebastien Kerr said UConn students shouldn’t be the ones bearing the brunt of budget cuts.
“These budget cuts send the message that, though we are students today, we may not be huskies tomorrow, and that’s unacceptable,” Kerr said.
USG External Affairs Chairwoman Haley Hinton said being forced to rally against the cuts was frustrating.
“I’m not here today as the USG External Affairs Chairwoman, but just as a student, who is horrified by what these cuts could do. Having to pay for every penny of school myself, it’s fair to say I’m absolutely terrified,” Hinton said.
Hinton said she was recently accepted to UConn’s accelerated program in law, but she’s worried the program would disappear if the budget passed.
“I have a terrible feeling that, if these cuts are to go through, programs like that are going to be on the chopping block, and that this opportunity that is huge for me would just be taken away,” Hinton said.
First generation student and recreation center employee Jonathan Reyes said UConn has given him the ability to attend college.
“UConn has given me, and many other students, the opportunity to change our lives for the better, but this budget cut will take away the school’s ability to offer that opportunity to students in our community. I cannot speak for everybody but I know that for me, there is no other place to go to get a high quality education at a reasonable price,” Reyes said.
UConn law student and last year’s USG president Dan Byrd said he’s passionate about fighting against budget cuts because that was a large focus of his undergraduate career.
“Students shouldn’t have to deal with that. We shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not our financial aid is going to be there and whether or not our legislature is going to cut funding for our education. We need to tell our legislators that an investment in UConn is an investment in the long-term success of Connecticut,” Byrd said.
Other student speakers included student-director elect to the UConn Foundation and Ph.D. candidate Tony Patelunas and Board of Trustees undergraduate representative Christine Savino.
UConn’s state representative Greg Haddad and state senator Mae Flexer assured the crowd they would continue to fight against cutting UConn’s budget.
“We must urge governor Malloy to do the right thing and veto this bill. The future of UConn and your education is not negotiable,” representative Haddad said.
Students spoke on why they chose to attend the rally and the effects the potential the cuts could have on them.
“I think it’s important for us to show that UConn is a great school. Especially as an out-of-state student, I was drawn to UConn because of the scholarships, the large number of majors, and the amount of clubs on campus. I wouldn’t have come here otherwise,” fifth-semester Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences major Kristen Carcascia.
Third-semester political science major Amber Smith said she would no longer be able to attend UConn if the budget passed.
“Half of my tuition is covered by state-run financial aid, and if that were to be cut I would have to drop out of UConn and go to a community college. And I’m worried because merit and need-based scholarships would be the first to go with the cuts,” Smith said.
First-semester computer engineering major Eric Bueno said he does not want to see UConn decrease in quality.
“Though I’m only a freshman, I’ve been at UConn for a while through various summer programs. I really like it here and would hate to see the school in decline,” Bueno said.
Gabriella DeBenedictis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.