UT Students Walk Out To Protest Budget Cuts (Slideshow)

Students walked out of class at 10:30 this morning and congregated on the West Mall to protest proposed budget cuts to 16 centers and institutions in the College of Liberal Arts. 

Police estimated about 150 people participated in the rally, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

College of Liberal Arts dean Randy Diehl was told last year that his college’s budget would be flat for the next two years, creating a deficit of $3.75 million. Diehl formed a committee to advise him on areas where the college’s budget could be reduced. In early November, the committee recommended $1 million in cuts to specialized centers, including those focused on African-American, Mexican-American, Latin-American, and Middle-Eastern studies.

The committee based its recommendations on performance metrics, including number of semester hours offered, number of students in each major, and monetary input. After hearing about the loss of her center’s funding, Middle Eastern Studies department chair Kristen Brustad told the Daily Texan the implied lack of support from the University will make it harder for them to attract grants from the U.S. Department of Education. “We stand to lose staff who help run our programs and grants,” she said. “We’re gritting our teeth through the whole thing.”

Kayce Crawford, a senior majoring in African studies, also expressed frustration at the University’s proposal, worrying that it could hurt UT’s efforts to attract minority students. “If you are recruiting these students and then you tell them that their heritage and the teaching of that heritage is not important, it sends all of us a mixed message,” she told the Statesman.

In these tight budgetary times, with the state facing a shortfall on the order of $20 billion, the University has had to make a series of budget cuts and plan for more. Twice this year Gov. Rick Perry asked state institutions to skim first 5 and then an additional 10 percent from their proposed budgets.

Institutions of higher ed were particularly hard-hit during the first round, absorbing more than 40 percent of the cuts despite accounting for only 15 percent of the state’s budget.

During that first round, the University announced that 90 percent would come from administrative, rather than academic, areas — meaning many staff members lost their jobs but specific academic centers were largely spared. Administrators are waiting to hear back on the plans for an additional 10 percent cut.

Richard Flores, senior associate dean of liberal arts, spoke with KXAN, saying final decisions won’t be made until the spring and that Diehl plans to meet with students, faculty, and staff beforehand. Flores also said that President Bill Powers has expressed his desire to minimize cuts to the Center for African-American Studies and the Center for Mexican American Studies. 

KUT news intern Nick Robertson captured the walk-out and rally this morning.

Photo at top by Sophie Duvall/The Alcalde.



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