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Students plan budget protest

If things work out the way student leaders hope, college classes across the valley will be devoid of students today.

There’s a walkout scheduled for 10 a.m. today at UNLV to protest another round of budget cuts. Students are being encouraged to skip class and caravan to the Sawyer Building downtown, where the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee will be meeting.

Adam Cronis, the student body president at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said the higher ed system cannot suffer another round of cuts without seriously damaging students’ educations. That is a mantra the state’s higher education leaders have been repeating since word came down 21/2 weeks ago that the state expects to be almost $900 million short of what it had budgeted for.

Gov. Jim Gibbons called Monday night for a special session of the Legislature to deal with the shortfall.

Cronis said students will gather outside the committee meeting at 11 a.m. today. There will be speeches, he said, and likely some chanting designed to get the attention of lawmakers.

The goal, he said, is for the students to be heard. They hope that a member or two of the committee will come down and listen to what they have to say. Because the committee will be meeting to discuss issues unrelated to higher education, Cronis and others said they will not disrupt the meeting.

Students fear more cuts could delay them from graduating, eliminate some programs and force some students to quit college altogether. Higher education took cuts in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

College of Southern Nevada student Justin McAffee said students hope to get the legislators to do more than listen.

“We’re hoping to send a message: ‘Look, if you guys don’t respect education, we’re going to take this to the ballot and hold you accountable,'” he said.

Nathaniel Waugh, the student president at CSN, said student government leaders there are not encouraging a walkout but are encouraging CSN students to participate in the rally at the committee meeting.

“We don’t want to call it a walkout here because it sends the wrong message,” he said.

McAffee said CSN students were planning a rally, but they decided to join the UNLV students because it would have a bigger impact.

“Let’s just do this together to make some more noise,” said McAffee, with the school’s Capitol Club, which he described as a nonpartisan group aimed to get students politically involved.

UNLV students said they scheduled the rally for a time when classes were in session because that is when the legislative committee is meeting.

The students have encouraged professors to join them.

“I sincerely hope that they do, as we are all at risk when it comes to the budget crisis,” Jessica Lucero, the president of the graduate student and professional organization at UNLV, wrote in an e-mail.

John Filler, the chairman of the faculty senate at UNLV, said he is “proud” of the students for getting involved, but the senate is neither endorsing nor condemning their actions.

“UNLV students are some of the most significant stakeholders in this disaster,” Filler wrote in an e-mail. “As future leaders of the state I am very proud of the fact that they are willing to take a public stand for UNLV. I only hope that the members of the Nevada Legislature also realize how precious this university is to the future of our state and take the affirmative action necessary save higher education.”

The university’s provost issued a memo noting that the walkout was scheduled but did not take a position on it.

Provost Michael Bowers said he was “proud” of student, faculty and staff support for the university.

“We also recognize that students and faculty will need to be appropriately accountable for the actions they take and we assume that both will take this into account as they decide what choices to make in regard to missing classes or excusing such absences, respectively,” he wrote.

Contact reporter Richard Lake at rlake@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0307.

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