By Tammy Stonecypher
INDIANA -- Hundreds of students and handfuls of professors convened an impromptu workshop on legislative lobbying in front of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania library on Wednesday.
Around 10 a.m. professors propped up a white banner reading "United we stand, underfunded we fail" suspended over a folding table covered with postcards and literature -- and free candy.
For several hours in unseasonably warm and sunny weather, students bunched and read -- or grabbed and ran with -- postcards addressed to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and letters addressed to parents. One skateboarder sped past and took a handoff from a professor.
The postcards read, "PASSHE budget cuts affect me because ...," and, "Students benefit from state investment in Pennsylvania's public universities because...," followed by blank spaces for comments.
Letters to parents summarized the governor's actual and proposed budget cuts to higher education and suggested that moms and dads partner with professors and students in upcoming protests.
APSCUF, the statewide union of faculty members, authored the literature. David D. Chambers, Ph.D., an IUP political science professor, said the event was organized to get faculty-generated information into the hands of students before spring break and into the hands of parents before protests scheduled in Harrisburg later this month.
"We are asking parents and students to get involved, because we all have a dog in this fight," Chambers said.
IUP students gathered around the table between classes, chatted with professors and said they signed postcards to protest budget cuts for Pennsylvania's public universities. Nearly 1,500 letters had been distributed before 1:30 p.m., Chambers said. An additional 1,500 will be distributed by Friday.
Some students refused the literature offered by faculty members. But those who stopped said they appreciated the lobbying effort.
"I think this is a good idea," said Joshua M. Cormas, 18, a freshman computer science major from Murrysville, as he read the letter to parents while walking toward the Oak Grove. "Corbett's cuts to education are something he's done before. It's just going to screw us over more."
"It's ridiculous that they keep adding to our tuition," said Morgan A. Wylie, 19, a hospitality management major from Harrisburg, as she signed a postcard at the table. "When I was coming up, they said state schools are affordable."
Wednesday's event in the Oak Grove is the first in a series of APSCUF events to demonstrate disapproval of the governor's budget cuts. Chambers said a postcard-signing rally is scheduled on campus the week after spring break later this month.
On March 26-27, campus contingents from publicly funded universities statewide are scheduled to converge in Harrisburg for a "Lobby Days" event, culminating in a March 28 rally at the capitol.
Chambers said APSCUF will charter at least one bus at no charge for IUP students bound for the March 28 Harrisburg rally.
David Loomis contributed reporting.