Downtown says ‘No to Budget Cuts’

BUDGET BATTLE: David Martinez, the government affairs director of the Arizona Students' Association, spoke Wednesday night at the ASASUD meeting about his efforts at the State Capitol to lobby against budget cuts at Arizona schools. (Photo by Lisa Bartoli)

Two organizations are collaborating with Downtown Phoenix students to voice opinions about how to stop the government from making more university budget cuts.

The Associated Students of Arizona State University Downtown and the Arizona Students’ Association held the first “Say No to Budget Cuts” meeting in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication Wednesday evening.

ASASUD is the student government on the Downtown Phoenix campus. ASA is the statewide organization that advocates making college affordable for all Arizona students.

At the meeting, students were educated about how budget cuts will not only affect them, but also the services provided by ASU and the state of Arizona.

First-year graduate student Vania Guevara believes higher education should be invested in rather than cut. She is worried budget cuts will hold her back from completing her master’s degree with only one more year to go. She relies solely on loans to get through school.

“It’s immoral to burden us with student debt, basically exploiting us to work for the rest of our lives,” Guevara said. “We have to pay astronomical tuition and fees for opportunities to grow as an educated society who want to give back to improve our lives, the lives of our families and ultimately give back to our country as a whole.”

Freshman Class Senator Daiyaann Colbert began the campaign “ASASUD Against Cuts to Higher Education” on Wednesday evening to shape the Downtown student government’s position against cuts to higher education and find a way to voice opinions to the state government.

All other ASU campuses have campus-specific advocacies that are also lobbying the government to stop cuts.

United through ASASUD and ASA, students are building alliances with local businesses and Arizona taxpayers.

At the meeting, students discussed how education is essential to better one’s self in society and educate the workforce. They agreed the financial aid and scholarships offered are not enough, and an increase in money available to aid students is necessary.

“As a student government, we have an obligation to provide students with the resources they need to mobilize and take a stance against these cuts,” Colbert said in an e-mail. “Our goal is to make sure we let the legislature know that we won’t stand for more cuts, and that students and the university system are vitally important to the long-term growth of our state and its economy.”

Students provided ideas on creative ways to voice their opinions to the Arizona government.

One idea is to appeal to the government with personal stories of their struggles to pay for college.

Students also discussed joining forces with the University to cut unnecessary spending. Students said using social media skills to reach others will be key to gain numbers and educate others.

Students suggested meeting with government officials to provide numbers and statistics revealing the negative effects of budget cuts on student attendee numbers.

Journalism freshman Latoya Rucker, who lives on the Navajo Reservation in Jeddito, Ariz., attended the meeting and had no idea there were going to be more budget cuts.  She said she already has financial struggles and just barely found a way to pay for this semester.

“It means a lot to me because if there is a budget cut, then I have no way of actually affording school,” Rucker said. “The only way I’m affording school is financial aid, scholarships, grants and loans. It’s very upsetting.”

Guest speaker Rep. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, was present at the meeting to discuss budget cuts and how students can make a difference.

“Don’t assume the world will change right away,” Farley said. “Do the best to get the word out not just to legislators, but to other students as well. There is a reason tuition and fees go up, and they should vote accordingly. Broaden people’s knowledge.”

Farley said if students are persistent in fighting against budget cuts, they can create real change. He said students are not only fighting for themselves, but their friends, future kids and the entire state.

Reach the reporter at tchavez3@asu.edu