Group urges students to challenge cuts

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A group of students are working to take action against the $1 million in proposed budget cuts to specialized ethic and identity studies centers. The Students Speak, a UT activist group, led a “teach-in” Thursday to inform students about the cuts. An academic planning committee proposed the cuts last year after Gov. Rick Perry ordered a mandatory budget decrease to all state agencies. The amount of cuts from each center has not yet been determined. “They’re wack,” said Warren Moore, a chemistry and ethnic studies senior. “The majors that don’t bring in profit, in my opinion, are being hit the hardest, but these are the majors that draw in a diverse student body.” More than 40 students, faculty and staff attended the forum which featured a speaker from the Texas State Employees Union. Mimi Garcia, the union’s outreach coordinator, said Union became involved with the budget-cutting process in response to 27 faculty accepting early retirement packages. The University did not fill the open positions. Garcia said if legislators tightened corporate tax loopholes, restructured the tax bracket and used the Rainy Day Fund — a pot of $9.4 billion set aside to relieve the economy in times of hardship — the University’s budget deficit could be resolved. Tatiana Kalani Young, a women’s and gender studies graduate student, and Carina Souflee, a Latin American studies senior, led the meeting. “Students must organize and believe in their ability to hold the administration accountable to their fiscal decisions and to take charge of the quality of their education,” Young said. President William Powers Jr. said the 40 percent cuts for the African American studies and Mexican American studies centers were too deep and requested that they be re-evaluated. Any cuts to these centers will be lower than what was initially proposed, according to information from the dean’s office. “These centers serve the entire University, not just single units,” said Omi Jones, director of the Center for African and African American Studies. Students at the meeting encouraged their peers to challenge the administration’s budgetary decisions. They also urged students to make their concerns known to legislators because they are the ones who allocate funds for higher education. “As the state’s economic situation has forced budget cuts at The University of Texas, the college has already reduced departments’ instructional budgets, reduced staff in college offices and offered early exit incentives to senior faculty,” said James Southerland, assistant dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “The suggested cuts to centers are part of the larger initiative to reduce our budget.”