Students dressed in funeral attire are slated to march on the steps of the capitol Monday to “mourn the death” of higher education in Tennessee. Tech’s chapter of American Association of University Professors President and Professor of English Andy Smith and AAUP Vice President and Professor of History Katherine Osburn also plan on attending the Nashville rally.
“We have generated a lot of support . . . Please come help us lower tuition and make school more affordable, and of better quality,” Osburn said. “Don’t rely on a friend to take a stand for you, be a part of creating change, not just a benefactor of other people’s actions.”
The rally comes after a group of students weary of the proposed Tennessee Board of Regents budget banded together. The group is known as The Coalition to Save Our Schools.
The Coalition was formed after students, faculty and staff became informed of the five-page memo about proposed budget changes. The memo was sent to the presidents of TBR institutions by TBR Chancellor Charles Manning on November 20, 2008.
The memorandum arrived at the brink of the scheduled TBR Winter 2008 break.
Those fearing decisions would be made before spring classes resumed Jan. 15 without student, faculty and staff consensus quickly formed the coalition. And Tuesday, Jan. 13 the students caught both Gov. Phil Bredesen and the media’s attention as they rallied on the steps of the capitol.
Marching students and faculty carried signs and chanted, and it resulted in five TBR students receiving an invitation to meet with Bredesen the following day.
In an effort to strengthen student support against the proposals, the group began communicating with TBR appointed Student Regent and University of Memphis Student Government Association President Gionni Carr.
Founding coalition member and Middle Tennessee State University student Ashley Renner and Carr visited with Tech students, faculty and staff at the Wednesday, Jan. 21 Backdoor Playhouse meeting.
Carr stated several worries he has about the TBR proposal.
“If we pay a five to 10 percent tuition increase and take the tuition cap off and place it at 12 hours, it’s going to take about $1200 to take two extra classes,” Carr said. “It’s going to take five years to graduate a four-year university. At least cap it at 15 hours so we can graduate in four years.”
Carr also stated he was concerned about the scope of education a student may be able to receive if the proposal stands.
“People double majoring or minoring will drastically be affected,” Carr said. “They are just trying to further their education and would be penalized for taking more than 12 hours.”
Carr also voiced his concern about how students’ financial aid could be affected if the proposal goes into effect.
“Financial aid is situational,” Carr said. “What if I my financial aid is set for four years but I don’t graduate in four anymore?”
The basic structural implications of the TBR proposal also came into question.
“We’re looking at following the University of Phoenix model,” Carr said. “Are you kidding me?”
“Please don’t let this happen. We could lose our accreditation and my diploma would be worthless if we did. Employers [would] look at my diploma and question my ability due to this. Help us fight to keep the quality of our education.”
Students are scheduled to meet at the 15th Avenue Baptist Church located at 1203 9th Avenue North from 3 to 4 p.m. Members of the demonstration will march from the church to the capitol at 4 p.m. and hold the “funeral procession” for higher education at approximately 4:30 p.m.
A candlelight vigil will be held at sunset, and it is requested that participants bring their own candle.
Demonstrators are scheduled to move into the capitol for the Bredesen’s State of the State Address from 5:30 to 6 p.m.