UNR Students Create Giant Political Message On Campus

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The debate over the Governors budget cuts continues to heat up...and now some UNR students are now speaking out...in support of them.

Students at UNR found a giant message, scrawled in front of their student union today. Members of the College Republicans used chalk paint to show their support for the Governor's proposed 8% budget cuts...but some students say the message was inappropriate.

It said "Students Support Governor Gibbons' Budget." Some students had a problem with the message, saying it was misleading...others had a problem with the placement, and the failure of the Republican group to follow protocol.

Students hoofed their way to class across the 30 by 30 foot political message...some of them not seeming to notice...others trying to figure out just what it meant. Jason Buchanan, a member of the College Republicans at UNR, says the message is meant to support the governor's proposal to cut funds, including cuts that may affect higher education.

"Why shouldn't that money be taken and put in other places where it's more valuable, like health care, etc., places where it's more critical?" said Buchanan.

Buchanan says staff members at the Joe Crowley Student Union asked the political taggers to leave, calling them loiterers, and accusing them of vandalism.

"There are certain policies that need to be followed when students want to chalk on campus. Those policies were not met. So really that's it. It's never based on content, ever. It's about following policies," said Maria Urbina, Director of Clubs & Organizations at UNR.

Buchanan says the message was written in a temporary chalk paint, one that comes off easily with water...but some students say the message, no matter how temporary, was misleading.

"To write on the sidewalk that students here at the University, in front of our brand new student union that we paid so much money for, to say we support cuts is an outright lie," said Rachel Miller, president of UNR's Young Democrats.

Rachel Miller is the president of UNR's Young Democrats. She thinks the College Republicans only represent a small population of UNR's student body...and doesn't reflect opinions as a whole. Miller says she and many other students are concerned about cuts in education and programs.

"They should have put, 'a couple of students support Jim Gibbons' budget cuts,' not just students in general because students in general don't," added Miller.

Buchanan argues that while he agrees that not all students are in support of what the giant message claims, he and other young politicians have the right to express themselves.

"We want to show Governor Gibbons that UNR is not against him. There are quite a few students who will stand up for him and what they believe in," said Buchanan.

Facilities staff on campus planned to take a closer look at the message this afternoon...and if it didn't come off, the Republican group may be held responsible for paying cleanup costs.

A UNR representative emphasized the fact that the college campus is a "place of expression" and that healthy debate is welcomed...however, proper protocol for displaying messages needs to be followed in the future.

Some members of academic leadership is saying all the panic is premature. Bruce Shively assists with planning, budget and analysis at UNR. He says the cuts could mean an annual loss of 16 million dollars.

"The whole gamete of the institution is affected by a five percent cut. When you take it to eight percent, you've amped it up to the point where we cannot make sensible reductions. The cuts would be hard-hitting and have dramatic impact across campus," said Shively.

Shively says it could mean cuts to not only instruction, but also research, public service and athletics. But campus Provost, Janet Vreeland, says at this point, the cuts are only hypothetical.

"Everybody is talking about possibilities. There is no reality here. We don't know what the budget shortfall is for the state. Until we know, we cannot talk about specific budget cuts," said Vreeland.

Vreeland says furthermore, if the cuts do take place, her office will cut from every other area in the budget, before they even look at compromising academics. She says students shouldn't worry.

"I am not planning on anything going. I will go back and teach a business class if that is what it takes to keep it. I would expect all of the administration would too, if that is what it takes to help the instructive side," she said.

Vreeland says she's dedicated to academia...but that the proposed budget cuts could still hurt the college as a whole. She says while the core mission at UNR is instruction, the budget office only has control over a portion of the money...and where it ends up.

As far as rumors that staff salaries will be the first to go, the provost says there are contractual obligations to employees that have to be met...so that's not realistic.

At this point, she says no decisions can be made until Governor Gibbons announces just how severe the budget shortfall is...and where he plans to make cuts.