I just happened to be waiting for a bus near the UT campus at noon today when I saw a poster for UT's rally planned in conjunction with the National Day of Action regarding higher education issues. So, I headed over to the West Mall where the event was underway and heard a number of the student speakers, as well as an associate professor of English and our State Rep. Elliot Naishtat (a UT Law School grad). Students had created a lot of good posters and signs, including the large "STUDENT POWER, not the IVORY TOWER" banner held by several students at the foot of the UT tower. At one point, the crowd was led in a march around the Main Building, but then, spontanteously, I think, those at the front decided to march right into the building and up the stairs toward the President's office. The chants of the crowd echoed nicely in the stair well, and some staffers came out to see what was going on. Those at the head of the march encountered locked doors at the President's office, however, so the crowd turned back after taping a number of posters to the doors of the budget office. Back outside, the rally resumed with more speakers. Students called for a tuition freeze instead of a tuition hike, citing their own challenges trying to afford school while having to work and pay living expenses. Another issue addressed was the flawed process leading to the announced closing of the very popular Informal Classes and the Cactus Cafe (my very favorite live music venue in Austin.) Also, several signs (including one I carried) called for UT to extend benefits to domestic partners of university employees.
I felt proud of students and staff for organizing this rally along with many other groups around the country today. Without affordable and accessible higher education, everyone loses.