You are right, Patrick O’Mahen. The College Democrats are an activist group on campus. Last fall, we registered 4,667 voters and, previously, we stood in solidarity with GEO as they fought for a fair wage. Today, our members are working across the policy spectrum to advance progressive ideas on the state and national levels.
But you were wrong when you fundamentally misrepresented the budgetary situation and Governor Jennifer Granholm’s advocacy on behalf of University students in the state of Michigan (Schooling Granholm, 02/16/09). Farcical analysis of the state budget fails to take in account the extraordinary circumstances that are facing this state as it weathers the current economic conditions.
Granholm has been a steadfast proponent and defender of state education funding since she first stepped into office. Granholm is on record as stating that with President Obama’s stimulus package, the proposed cuts will be unnecessary. This goes for both K-12 education and higher education spending. It also increases the Pell Grant program to address the needs of low-income students. Furthermore, Granholm’s record has consistently defended education spending. Blaming Granholm for the hard decisions facing this state is unfair.
The Republican Party has taken a strong stance in both the state legislature and Congress in favor of cutting spending across the board, especially education. State Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) stated recently he wanted cuts to education spending no matter how much aid comes from the stimulus package. Granholm cannot expect willing partners among state Republicans when they demand cuts to higher education. Additionally, Republicans in the U.S. Congress recently removed $40 billion in aid to states. This was essential aid that would have been used to fix these deficits in education funding at the state level.
In these critical times, it is important to recognize that everyone is being forced to tighten their belts. It is also important to recognize that tuition is not the only issue critical to students. Since the election, the College Democrats have focused on health care advocacy, prison reform and sustainable growth in Michigan. Each one of these campaigns addresses a significantly ignored part of the budget that would immeasurably improve the lives of students. Stereotyping student concerns by focusing solely on tuition minimizes our own pain and allows students to be framed as extremely self-centered. These are tough times for the entire state of Michigan, and we are merely one constituency.
The College Democrats look forward to working with O’Mahen, MSA, LSA-SG and any other interested organization on developing a forward thinking action plan to address all issues affecting students — not just tuition.
Nathaniel Eli Coats Styer is the Chair of the University of Michigan chapter of the College Democrats.