ANNAPOLIS -- Students from the University of Maryland at College Park moved their campaign to halt budget cuts from the ivory tower to the real world yesterday in a small but spirited rally at the State House.
State police estimated between 400 and 500 people took part in the rally and "study-in" that began with a caravan of six honking buses and about 100 cars that left the campus about 1 p.m. Organizers had hoped for at least 1,000 people, and blamed the lower turnout on a warning from the university president, William E. Kirwan, that faculty members who cut classes would be penalized.
Students said they hoped their presence would nonetheless make a difference with the policy-makers. After chants of "Let's go Maryland" and "Keep the pressure on," they sat down in near silence on the State House lawn to write lawmakers in support of two emergency bills that would restore tens of millions of dollars to higher education.
Student leaders took pains to keep the protest lawful. "The focus needs to be on our cause, not our actions," senior Scott Palmer instructed marchers.
And in contrast to Monday, when a march on campus ended with 12 arrests for disorderly conduct, yesterday's rally caused little more than backups on the interstate and on local roads leading into the state capital. Many motorists sounded their car horns in support of the students.
"I'm glad I am not going to school now," Joe Rosol said as he jogged past the rally. A graduate of the university's College of Engineering during what he called "the fat years" -- the 1980s -- he promised to call his delegate.
Yesterday's crowd included an English professor who lectured to his honors students during the march down Rowe Boulevard, a 30-year-old freshman with her two children, and a landscaper filling in for his daughter. "She wanted to come, but she had school," said Mike Palmer, 38, of his daughter, Lisa.