’Horns fight for UT at Capitol

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82nd Legislature

Students kept their promise to walk to the Capitol to attend a Senate Finance Committee hearing Wednesday despite record-breaking cold weather and President William Powers Jr.’s sudden hospitalization. More than 50 members of Student Government, Senate of College Councils, Graduate Student Assembly and other student organizations shouted “Texas fight” as they marched to the Capitol to kick off the “Invest in Texas” campaign, created to organize students to lobby the Texas Legislature to adequately fund UT, protect financial aid programs and allow the University to stay academically competitive. SG Executive Director Jimmy Talarico said the University budget item was removed from the docket because of Powers’ absence, making student presence all the more important. “President Powers was going to be our biggest advocate at today’s meeting so without him our presence is that much more necessary,” he said. “We’re not just there for UT. We are there for all students across the state.” Similar to the House’s budget proposal, the Senate budget proposed significant cuts to education, reducing financial aid programs by more than $380 million and cutting about $87 million from state and federal money allotted to UT, according to the Senate state budget released last week. Student Government vice president Muneezeh Kabir said she thought student testimonies were compelling and senators were attentive as students gave personal accounts how the budget cuts would effect them. “I was elected to the privilege of representing over 50,000 students, but I have never felt more empowered than when I marched to the Capitol this morning with [many] of them,” she said while testifying. “These students walked through the freezing weather to remind you of the gravity of your task.” Kabir closed her testimony by restating the goals of the Invest in Texas campaign. “We urge you to keep us affordable, keep us safe and keep us competitive,” she said. “We don’t want you to just prioritize us — we want you to invest in us and in so doing, invest in Texas.” Chelsea Adler, Senate of College Councils president, told legislators how she and more than 78,000 other students would be personally affected by reducing the number of TEXAS Grant recipients by half. “Without that program from the state, I would either have to have taken out a large amount of loans, or I would have not been able to attend UT Austin,” Adler told senators. “Receiving the TEXAS Grant and attending UT Austin has allowed me to participate in undergraduate research, serve as a student leader and receive a first-class education.” Adler said students’ perseverance today was a sign that the campaign is getting off to a good start, and she is looking forward to their future lobby day on March 7. “We pretty much had all the odds stacked against us with the weather, the potential snow day, President Powers being hospitalized and even just the 8 a.m. wake-up call, but I think this shows how serious students are about having their voice heard by the Legislature, and I think it’s just a sign of things to come,” she said.