The Slippery Rock Student Government Association (SGA) hosted a rally to speak out against the recent proposed budget cuts to higher education Tuesday afternoon in the quad.
Earlier this month, Governor Tom Corbett proposed a 20 percent cut to public higher education, including the 14 Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) universities. The rally, which included a release of 700 balloons, had many students and faculty in attendance, as well as others who wished to speak out against the cuts. State Representative Jaret Gibbons, who represents the Slippery Rock area as well as parts of Beaver and Lawrence Counties, spoke at the event.
“I will be in Harrisburg fighting to make sure that we do not have more cuts to higher education,” Gibbons said. “Pennsylvania needs educated young people in our workforce.”
Gibbons feels that through the efforts of students, change could possibly be made.
“It’s only through [the students’] voices that we’re going to be able to stop this,” he said. “We need to grow our young population, and we’re only going to do it through a quality education.”
The idea of the event has sparked controversy among various environmentalist groups over the past week, including Balloons Blow, Sea Angels, Blue Turtle, Peaceful Protest Against Litter, and Museum of Litter. The groups, most of which are from Florida, have posted on Facebook and sent emails to SGA to express their concern.
Many were concerned about how biodegradable the balloons were, as well as the effect that they may have on wildlife in the future. According to Jim Henry, vice president of student affairs for SGA, extensive research was done on releasing balloons before coordinating the event.
“I believed that releasing the balloons was safe in the beginning, and I still believe that it’s safe,” he said. “I believe that what I found in my research was factual. I planned on sticking with the facts.”
Henry, as well as many other students at the event, felt that the symbolism of the balloon release was more important than the controversy that it created.
“The idea was that if a bunch of balloons were released, students would see the symbolic nature of their money being taken away,” Henry said. “Even students who weren’t at the rally would be able to see the balloons up in the sky and be more aware.”
Many students had positive things to say about the event. Gabe Serafin, a senior business management major, believed that the symbolic aspect of the event was fitting.
“I liked that the balloons were there to show how much money is being taken away from students,” he said.
Maddie Saldana, a junior exercise science major, hoped that the event would help others reach out further against the budget cuts.
“The balloons represented money being taken away from us as students,” she said. “I hope that others will reach out and help to bring that money back.”
Bill Griffith, a freshman secondary education major, was concerned about how the budget cuts would affect him in the future as a first year student.
“It was really nice to see the Slippery Rock community come together to help stand up for their future,” he said. “As a first year student, these budget cuts will be affecting me and other students in the years to come.”
Jordan Bailley, president of SGA, expressed his concern for the underclassmen and future students that will be affected by the cuts the most.
“Although I’ll be graduating in May, I deeply care about education for both current and future students,” he said. “I believe that something must be done to stop more funds from being taken away from our state system.”