COLLEGE PARK -- The normally quiet University of Maryland campus erupted yesterday with hundreds of students marching in anger over budget cuts they say have eroded the quality of their education.
The rally started at noon in front of the Stamp Student Union, and the numbers of students, faculty and staff swelled to about 600. The crowd chanted, "Say no to cuts," "Down with cuts," and "We're not going to take it anymore."
They were talking about the loss of about $40 million in state funds over the past two years. Among other things, the decreased funding has forced campus administrators to reduce the number of credits a student may take in a semester from 19 to 16. Several classes and sections of classes have been eliminated and tuition has been increased an average of 16 percent.
Holding a burning schedule of classes before the crowd at the Main Administration Building, the Student Government Association president, Paul H. Carlson, shouted: "Down with cuts." The crowd screamed and began chanting.
"This is the Maryland that I go to? This used to be apathy central. I guess we have Governor Schaefer to thank for getting us involved," said Jason E. Hoffman, a 22-year-old senior speech communication major, looking at all the students chanting on the PTC steps of the administration building.
"The state is not meeting its commitment to higher education and we won't take it," shouted Scott R. Palmer, the chairman of the University of Maryland System Student Council. "We are the future of this state. We are the future of this nation.
"It is impossible for me to comprehend that classes are disappearing," shouted Mr. Palmer, a senior government and politics major.
After about 20 minutes, the crowd marched to U.S. 1 and stopped four lanes of traffic for about five minutes as they looped back to the student union.
"They are speaking their mind. The people who always get hurt are the ones who have no voice," said William E. Rice, a 25-year-old junior radio, television and film major, who was caught in the traffic jam the marchers caused.
Mr. Rice honked his horn in support of the students and said he didn't mind sitting in traffic for this cause.
The campus senate has passed four resolutions denouncing the budget cuts, including a resolution sent to the university system's Board of Regents urging a "more visible effort against the budget cuts," said Campus Senate Chairman Gerald R. Miller.
Dr. Miller, a chemistry professor, said the students are starting to
stand up now because the budget cuts are affecting academic programs.
College Park students have been called apathetic in the past and the campus' student newspaper, the Diamondback, has called them to action in recent editorials.
The SGA started planning the rally on Wednesday. "The feeling was there was a lot of anger and frustration in the air, and we needed a rally today [Thursday]," said Mr. Carlson. "We went around and found a strong sense of unity and that people were
upset with the quality of education eroding."
Even though campus President William E. Kirwan could not attend the rally, Mr. Carlson said he was an ally in the fight to restore funding to the university.
"Without the strong expression of feelings, nothing will change," Dr. Kirwan said in a telephone interview. "Students are frustrated and angry. They feel that a certain commitment was made to them by this institution and that it is being violated."