Students head to Harrisburg to fight tuition increases

By Gretchen Andersen

More than 250 student voices echoed through the State Capitol building yesterday, chanting “I… More than 250 student voices echoed through the State Capitol building yesterday, chanting “I believe that we need funds,” with the dull thud of hundreds of feet jumping up and down punctuating each syllable.

This scene played out at the first Rally for Higher Education in Harrisburg, hosted by the Pennsylvania Association of State-Related Students. The trip took a total of nine hours for the 63 Pitt students who attended — a group which included members of the Pitt Pendulums a capella group, Pathfinders, Phi Delta Theta fraternity, Student Government Board and Pitt Cheerleaders, among others.

PASS represents the four state-related schools across Pennsylvania: Pitt, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln universities. Pitt sent students to the event on two Coach buses and Sodexo provided free breakfast and lunch.

The association’s members include the student governments of state-related schools, including Pitt’s SGB, Penn State’s University Park Undergraduate Association and Council of Commonwealth Student Governments, the Temple Student Government and the Student Government Association of Lincoln University.

The rally included numerous student speakers who voiced concern about tuition increases and funding cuts from the state. Some even sang their worries.

The Pitt Pendulums performed “Almost Everything” by Wakey!Wakey!.

“It feels bad now, but it’s gonna get better some day,” the group belted.

When SGB President Molly Stieber spoke, she lauded Pitt — and the three other state-related schools — as a great investment for Pennsylvania.

Legislators drifted in and out as the students’ voices carried from the staircase through the chambers and offices. State Rep. Matthew Bradford of the 70th District, which includes parts of Montgomery County, was among those who watched the rally. Hundreds of people witnessed the event as they traveled in and out of the capitol building.

“I think it’s important for students to use their voices, because it most directly affects them and they’re often viewed as apathetic,” Bradford said. “You’ve got to keep pressure up on legislators to make sure education is an investment.”

Former Philadelphia Mayor John Street, who is now a faculty member at Temple University, also attended the event.

“Nothing is more influential to a legislator than to see these young people involved and show they care,” Street said. “Hopefully the legislators will sober up to the seriousness and political implications.”

Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg also made a brief appearance, shaking students’ hands for a minute before retreating so the students could have the attention. Later in the day, Pitt spokesman John Fedele confirmed that the chancellor met with some legislators, but could not say what specific topics they discussed or which legislators he met.

“Students initiated this effort and personalized the needs of higher education and particularly Pennsylvania’s research universities, and this will certainly have an impact on those making budget decisions,” Nordenberg said following the rally.

Pitt sophomore Danielle Cameron said she heard of the rally from Board member Emily Hoover. Cameron said it was exciting to see all the different schools cheer and come together.

“I think the message was sent in many different ways and got a lot of people’s attention,” Cameron said.