Students, administrators and supporters of Alabama State University rallied on the steps of the State House Thursday morning, urging lawmakers to reverse a proposed 26 percent cut to the university’s budget.
“Our message is clear,” ASU president Gwendolyn Boyd told a crowd of students under a cold rain. “We will not be silent. We will not be quiet. We will not allow you to do this to us.”
The Senate last week approved a $5.9 billion Education Trust Fund budget that would cut the university’s budget from $41.5 million in the current fiscal year to $31.5 million, a cut of about $10.8 million. ASU officials, who said they were not consulted about the cut, said it could lead to layoffs and the shut down of programs.
The budget does include a $10 million first-priority conditional for ASU. Its release would be at the discretion of Gov. Robert Bentley. Senate Finance and Taxation Education chairman Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, said last week he made the move to give Boyd leverage to make changes at the school, currently undergoing a forensic audit over allegations of fiscal mismanagement. Bentley says he did not seek the cut and does not support it.
Pittman said last week that he would work with House Ways and Means Education Committee chairman Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa to restore the funding to ASU. Lawmakers indicated at a House hearing Wednesday they supported restoring the cuts.
That feeling was echoed by lawmakers who attended the rally Thursday. Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, an alumni of Alabama State University, urged students to push lawmakers to restore the cut.
“It’s not over, and if any of you know the song, it’s not over,” he said. “Alabama State University can not sustain a $10 million cut. Alabama State can not sustain a $1 million cut. We will not stop until they restore the $10 million that was taken away.”
Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, who serves as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the school, said they would do all they could to “get the money back in the budget.”
Boyd said ASU students and faculty would “continue to fight for their institution.’
“It is a great institution,” she said. “It is a marvelous institution. It is an institution that produces greatness, and we will continue to produce greatness in each and every one of you, and for generations yet unborn.”