LAS VEGAS (AP) - A crowd estimated at about 2,000 students and
supporters rallied in a commons at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, against deep state budget cuts that some say would cripple
Nevada's higher education system.
"Last time this happened was, like, in the '60s," Vik Sehdev, UNLV student body vice president, said as speakers focused Thursday
night on Gov. Jim Gibbons' call for 36 percent cuts to the state higher education budget.
Michael Ulrich, a UNLV biology student, called the rally "the beginning of a movement that will change Nevada forever."
The event was organized by student leaders at UNLV, the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas and Nevada State College in Henderson in response to budget cuts the governor proposed for lawmakers to consider when they convene Feb. 2 in Carson City.
Gibbons cited a severe drop in state revenues amid the nationwide recession, and called for measures that officials say mean deeper cuts at individual schools - as much as 52 percent at UNLV.
"Governor Gibbons has failed education and the state," declared Ryan Crowell, student body president at Nevada State College. "We're not going to let legislators make the same mistake."
Nevada college students earned a reputation in the past for a
blasDe attitude toward causes.
But the turnout on Thursday drew approval from university system Chancellor Jim Rogers, an outspoken critic of the governor who urged rally participants to lobby state legislators to avoid cuts.
Otherwise, he said, tuition would skyrocket and philanthropic donors would stay away.
"Donors go with winners," Rogers said. "If the system becomes a loser, there will be no donors."
"You are talking about the 100 percent destruction of the higher education system in this state," he added.
State Assemblyman Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, pledged his support
for state higher education and told the crowd he expected the upcoming legislative session would be one of the most contentious
in state history.
Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak, a former state university regent, urged the rally participants to "shout so loud, they'll hear you in Carson City."
UNLV President David Ashley said lawmakers need to hear from students.
"It is up to you to make sure people know where you stand," he said. "And tonight, I think it's clear where you stand."
No official crowd estimate was available, but people stood shoulder-to-shoulder in a grassy area almost as big as a football field while others gathered on sidewalks, in a nearby amphitheater and atop the roof a building.
Some carried signs reading, "Save Our Future," and "Impeach Gibbons."
Bonnie Hayes, 27, a journalism student who recently got out of the Air Force after serving in Kuwait, carried a sign that read: "I fought for my country, now I'm fighting for my education."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)