Today, several students plan to head to Carson City and protest the proposed budget cuts for higher education for the University of Nevada (Reno). This comes on the heels of meetings, hearings, late night talks with friends, and pizza-fueled letter-writing campaigns all in hopes that somehow this behemoth of cuts (effectively destroying UNR) will be prevented. And while no one actually believes the proposed cuts (I’ve heard anywhere from 36%-50%) will get approved, many think large cuts in the range of 15%-30% will. These are sad times. Sad both in the sense that our “leaders” are only now addressing those they “lead” and how little we are focusing on the actual important things about the University.
Our leaders, as personified by Eli Reilly, Milton Glick, and the ASUN Senate (all wonderfully nice and respectable people) have, it appears, on their hands a problem which is utterly beyond their power to control or a problem which they are partly responsible for. By this I mean, either they have the power to stop these cuts and have failed to do so or they do not have the power to stop these cuts and we (the students) do not need them. And while this is obviously a ridiculous either/or extreme, consider the middle position: they have some power for doing some things (lacking power to do others and needing our help for those problems) and in this situation having only the power to inspire and inform others of the situation.
Well that is no power at all. And while I applaud the actions of Reilly, Glick, and the senators for acting fast and responsibily, the the role of the presidency and the role of the senate is not to be a mouthpiece, or at least it shouldn’t be. This problem has been long in coming: the reason tuition has been so low at UNR is for the massive amounts of money the state of Nevada pumps into it. Well, now the state says the spigot will begin to close. This calls for action, not begging. We should not have to grovel on our knees and plead with the state legislature for more money. It is not money that makes a university, it is the caliber of its students. We must not only become the best we can be during this “hard” times, we must be better than everyone else. Innovation, creativity, ingenuity, intelligence: these are what blaze the trail which the rest will follow. We cannot be content to follow behind anymore, we must stand forth and actively change our situation, not hope that our tears will convince anybody of anything.
But the biggest and single most important problem overlooked in every op-ed, in every article, every discussion over Ramen: EDUCATION. All caps should signify its importance, but in case that is not enough let me explain. All this talk of budget cuts and losing colleges and losing funding and losing the band and the atheletic teams and this and that and this and that over there; all this letter writing, protesting, furious argument and debate, all this comradery; all the posters and papers printed and left on desks for students to glance at, ignore, throw away, take home and post on their wall or enter into their calandars (save the date!); ALL OF THIS IS BESIDE THE POINT.
Education is the important thing, not the money, not the classes, not even the colleges. “Yes, everyone is worried about education, they just aren’t saying it in so many words. After all, it is money and classes and colleges that provide for a student’s education,” my rhetorical reader might say in response. However, it seems to me that education is the one thing no one is focusing on, and for good reason: you don’t need a university for an education. You need a unversity for university presidents and student leaders, you don’t need it to learn differential equations. Yes, I will admit, a unversity helps. Immensely. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if it is this university. I do not know about you, but I intend to get my education. If that means I have to pay more, work harder, move to another state, take a few years off, live on the streets, then so be it: I will have my education, with or without this university.
Let me qualify this by saying, I am not in favor of the cuts. Though it may seem that I couldn’t care less about the University, this is simply not true. The University of Nevada, Reno has helped make me who I am, it has given me a first rate education, taught me to think for myself, given me the resources to do so, and has asked for practically nothing in return. UNR is my home and one day, when I’m finally out in that real world I keep hearing about, I hope I can look fondly back at my years here. However, it is time to stop playing eye for an eye with the already blind and change our situation ourselves. These “hard” economic times have been used enough to excuse just about every behavior, but this must end. We are responsible for our situation and as such we must do something about it. We must stand forth, stand with, and stand and rise against these times and make them our times.