UM protesters 'target' Schaefer's budget cuts * Faculty, students gather at armory to protest reductions.

November 26, 1991|By Jay Merwin | Jay Merwin,Evening Sun Staff

COLLEGE PARK -- Outside the student unioon, barkers were touting the chance to throw darts at a picture of Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

"Take a few shots at the governor," the barkers said. "Put another hole in his head." Three throws for a quarter.

Business picked up yesterday when students streamed out of a rally against state budget cuts at the University of Maryland's main campus here.

Faculty, students and staff had filled about half of UM's cavernous armory.

They were ushered in by cheerleaders with pompons and a band brass and drums.

Elsewhere on campus, there were "teach-ins" throughout the day on the budget crunch.

Though the rhetoric was pure protest, the idea was not to storm the administration building, but to save it.

The "Maryland at Risk" protest was officially sponsored by the university to rouse public awareness of how the state budget crisis, and ensuing cuts in state funds, threaten the mission of College Park.

When the fight songs stopped inside the armory, the cry was "no more cuts," with administrators from College Park President William E. Kirwan on down joining in.

Kirwan said the General Assembly had mandated that UM be a top-flight institution with a national reputation that could attract Maryland's best high school graduates. Now, with state cuts forcing layoffs, tuition increases, fewer and more crowded course offerings, Kirwan said, that goal "is suddenly and seriously threatened."

He and other speakers said UM could lose its edge in research and that the best Maryland students would more likely go to college out of state, perhaps to be lost to the state after they graduate.

"Is that what Maryland wants?" Kirwan asked, playing upon local pride, like a football coach in the locker room at half-time. "Must this state forever play second fiddle educationally to Virginia, North Carolina, Michigan and California?"

Since the legislature appropriated $243 million for College Park for last fiscal year, UM's budget has shrunk by $40 million, with further losses likely. That trend represents an abrupt reversal of the Higher Education Reorganization Act of 1988, in which the General Assembly designated College Park as the flagship of the state system and crafted a five-year, $150 million enhancement plan to boost UM to the front rank of public universities around the nation.

At a teach-in at the student union, where discussion panelists plotted letter-writing campaigns and other strategies for recovering lost aid, Kirwan was somewhat appalled that running a university had come to this.

"I don't see it really as the university's business to have to lobby for higher education," he said, citing other states where public university systems had been spared the worst of budget-slashing plans. "Why is it in Maryland that it falls to the University of Maryland to lobby for higher education?"

But one of the politicians attending, Del. Sheila Hixson, D-Montgomery, said afterward that UM may have been treated unfairly in Schaefer's austerity scheme, but that lobbying was essential in these hard times.

"It's a way of life," she said.

Indeed, many of the exhortations at the rally were for the crowd to channel its anger into political action.

But some students like Jenny Mazur, a sophomore from Manchester in Carroll County, were too busy studying in the student union lounge yesterday morning while the teach-in was going on. She knew the score anyway. Higher tuition and fewer courses to choose each semester toward her education major will stretch out her years at College Park.

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