Days of Protest: Then and Now

In the 1960s and ‘70s, demonstrations on college campuses were the norm — civil rights, free speech, the war in Vietnam. Fast-forward to this past month, and once again we saw a number of protests on college campuses — this time about budget cuts and their effect on education. On March 4th, college students across the country rallied to voice their dissatisfaction with planned tuition increases at many colleges and universities as well as budget cuts that are resulting in teacher furloughs, canceled classes, entire academic departments being eliminated, and a decline in the quality of their education.

For the most part, these demonstrations were peaceful, although a few were not. In California, protesters evaded police and walked onto Interstate 880 near downtown Oakland, forcing the closure of the freeway in both directions for more than an hour and causing traffic to back up for miles. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee police arrested at least 15 people protesting tuition hikes after demonstrators tried to enter an administrative building to deliver petitions to the chancellor.

We all know attention can be a good thing, or a bad one. Everyone needs to be aware of the challenges faced by colleges and universities trying to provide a quality education. They also need to be aware of the plight of many families forced into working multiple jobs in order to pay ever-increasing tuition and fees, and the students who will end up forever burdened with debt. What they don’t need to see are students participating in activities that cast a negative light. We need taxpayer support for education, not disgust.

We are at a critical time as a nation. Baby-boomers are retiring; jobs are requiring an education beyond high school; we are competing with the world for students, faculty, and jobs. One key to our success has always been the high skill-level of our workers, resulting in a standard of living that was second to none. Our institutions of higher education have played an important role in getting us to this point, and will play an even more important role in our future success… IF legislators stop looking at the education budget as an easy place to make cuts.

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