Iowa students stand up and speak out

BY GUEST OPINION | JUNE 09, 2011 7:20 AM

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Students across Iowa spoke Monday at the Senate Education Committee meeting, conveying their experiences of budget cuts in Iowa’s education system. Some legislators, however, found these voices irrelevant and unimportant; Republican Sen. Shawn Hamerlinck told students flat-out that their lobbying was “political propaganda.”

As a taxpayer and as a student, I believe involvement in our government is a fundamental tenet of our nation’s democracy. Legislators’ disregard for our participation in a conversation that determines if we as students can one day provide for our families and pursue career goals is not only disappointing — it’s irresponsible.

Michael Appel, a student at the University of Iowa who spoke at the meeting, says, “It’s important for everyone to have a voice when big decisions that affect thousands of individuals are taking place. Today was unfortunate; it was a rude display of behavior by a state leader. In these difficult times, it is important for all to be respectful and hear each other so everyone can make educated decisions, which is why Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students will continue to communicate with all state, community, and student leaders throughout this year.”

Not only did current students attend and speak at the meeting, but recent graduates of the regents’ universities expressed their concern over ever-increasing tuition and the budget cuts’ effect on Iowa’s education system.

“Students at the University of Iowa know that actions by Executive Council are not of a political nature. We believe education is an investment in the future of this state and are able to unite a widely diverse array of students on this topic — students who are from both ends of the political spectrum — because we know that our ability to contribute to the vitality of Iowa lies in a public education. We will continue to fight, on our own accord, for the needs of our graduate and professional students the University of Iowa,” said Lyndsay Harshman, a recent graduate of the Carver College of Medicine at the University of Iowa and former president of Executive Council.

I am proud of Michael and Lyndsay, and Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa leaders Spencer Walrath and Jared Knight for speaking up for students in a professional manner, even when professionalism isn’t always a part of everyone’s civil discourse. I laud our leaders who value education and the future of this state.

In a state where some of our leaders say “no” to education, we as students say “yes” — even if we are dismissed by state legislators.

Kelli Todd is the president of the Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students.

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