The Maneater

MU Socialists holds meeting to organize against Gov. Greitens’ proposed cuts to higher education funding

In response to Greitens’ recent budget proposal, members are planning to hold various public demonstrations.

Attendees at MU Socialists’ Feb. 12 meeting in Middlebush Hall discussed ways to demonstrate against Gov. Greitens’ proposed budget cuts to higher education spending.

The meeting was held three weeks after Greitens unveiled his budget blueprint for fiscal year 2019 during a news conference. The proposal includes a $61 million, or 5.3 percent, cut to UM System funding.

However, this isn’t the first time the UM System has faced considerable blows to its budget. Greitens’ proposal comes nearly one year after an approximately $159 million, or 12 percent, cut to higher education spending during fiscal year 2018.

In January 2017, Greitens, who was a newly elected governor at the time, proposed expenditure restrictions on various programs. As a result, public universities faced nearly $56 million in cuts, while MU alone had $20 million slashed from its budget, according to a memo from then-interim Chancellor Hank Foley.

MU Socialists President Joseph Moore was sitting in on a UM System Board of Curators meeting on Feb. 2 when he came to an unsettling realization. One of the student representatives was discussing potential MU tuition increases when a board member asked the student if he was aware of how students felt about this issue.

“These people have no clue what we think, what our opinions are,” Moore said. “We need to make it known that the students at MU don’t want these budget and cuts and we don’t want tuition hikes.”

Students from across Missouri have expressed their disapproval of the past and more recent higher education cuts. Student representatives from six Missouri universities drafted a joint statement expressing their “deep disappointment” with Greitens’ proposal.

“Budget reductions of this magnitude would undoubtedly cause the rising cost of college to be placed squarely on the backs of students in the form of increased tuition and fees,” the statement read.

Joining the growing student voice against Greitens’ budget proposal are members of MU Socialists, who pointed to socialist ideology as why they opposed the cuts.

“Neoliberal ideology does not recognize education as a common good that must be publicly funded, but rather a commodity that should be bought and sold in the market,” Moore said. “As socialists, we believe public education is a public communal good and it should be free for everyone from kindergarten all the way up to graduate education.”

During the meeting, attendees discussed several ways to make their voices heard, including increasing awareness through the media and organizing public demonstrations.

Victoria Vitale, who facilitated the discussion, suggested protesting at the governor's mansion either on the weekend of Feb. 24 or the weekend of March 3. Other members proposed sit-ins at MU’s Francis Quadrangle or hosting rallies at the Missouri State Capitol.

Amalia Dache-Gerbino, MU College of Education assistant professor, agreed with organizing public demonstrations but also said that more needs to be done to truly enact change. Citing experience researching student resistance movements in South Africa, Dache-Gerbino urged the importance of building coalitions across different communities.

“The student movements in South Africa were pretty sophisticated,” Dache-Gerbino said. “There were conversations happening with faculty and community members. It was workers, students and faculty all coming together.”

Based on her 10 years of research in the area, Dache-Gerbino maintains that the only way to change the system is to organize at the grassroots and to have a united front. Fellow member Shane Johnson expressed a similar sentiment.

“We want to organize a large group of people united around one idea: Who are we going to fight against these cuts,” Johnson said. “A small group of people in this room have a real opportunity to make a big statement about the cuts, and we have the opportunity to do it right here in Columbia.”

Edited by Skyler Rossi | srossi@themaneater.com

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