Hundreds of students, faculty and staff are expected to march to the capitol building in Frankfort, Kentucky, to protest against the proposed cuts to higher education.
The March for Education will begin at 10 a.m. at the Kentucky State stadium and end outside of the capitol building, where they will expect to stay until 6 p.m.
Kaley Owens, an organizer of the event, said students from Kentucky State, University of Kentucky, University of Louisville and other institutions plan to attend, along with faculty and staff.
“The faculty and staff have been wonderful,” she said. “They have supported us 100 percent.”
Last week, the Student Government Association passed a resolution to support excused absences for students participating in the March for Education.
The resolution says the students participating in the March for Education should be supported by their professors and faculty members by allowing for the absence to be excused; however, the resolution does not excuse students from their classes that day. The decision will come down to the professor and student coming to an agreement about missing class.
“We are not advocating for a big skip day, but we are advocating for those students to feel comfortable asking their professors, ‘Hey, do you care if I go up to Frankfort and miss this day of class?’” said Clint Combs, president of the Student Government Association.
Combs said he reached out to the leaders of the March for Education and asked what the SGA could do to help. Combs said Emily Ferguson – another leader of this effort – said she was concerned about students not taking advantage of this opportunity for fear of incurring an unexcused absence that day.
“I decided to draft this resolution short and to the point,” Combs said. “But the goal was to get it out to the deans so the deans know that this is not just something that we are doing just to get out for the day, this is something we are doing because we truly care about higher education now, and higher education in the future.”
Combs sent out this resolution on Friday night, Feb. 19, and was not expecting a quick response because it was the weekend. However, the next morning, Tim Todd, interim provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, responded with a supportive response.
“Right out of the floodgates, the provost emailed me back saying that he appreciated the student government’s involvement and work,” Combs said.
Although Todd did not specifically voice his opinion on giving participating students an excused absence, he said he supported the effort students are putting into the March for Education because he had a similar opportunity when he was in college.
In 1986, as a member of the student body, Todd marched on Frankfort to oppose tuition increases.
“I’ve actually had the shoes on and walked in those footsteps, so I applauded President Combs and the SGA and the student body as an aggregate for taking a stand and wanting to do something,” Todd said.
Todd said faculty members when he was in college were much like the faculty members at Murray State now. They supported the students and their efforts, but the decision ultimately is made at the student-faculty level.
In January, Gov. Matt Bevin released his proposed budget, which included a 4.5 percent cut in funding this fiscal year and a 9 percent cut in following fiscal years. Eventually, the state will move toward 100 percent performance funding for all Kentucky universities. Performance funding allots state appropriations based on certain metrics, which have not been decided yet.
“We have the lowest tuition in public universities in Kentucky by and large and we are very supportive of that theme and of our students,” Todd said. “The faculty here are a lot like the faculty I had, they love students and students are why we exist.”
Owens said she and other organizers, like Ferguson and Katherine Summerfield, expect to have a large turnout despite expected cold weather.
Ultimately, she said the goal of the march is to let Bevin and legislators know that the cuts to higher education cannot be passed and that students are not going stand idly by.
“Students do care and they take their education seriously,” Owens said. “This is a big deal.”