MSA delivers 6,000 letters opposing budget cuts to lawmakers

Tuesday, February 14, 2012 | 8:10 p.m. CST; updated 8:26 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 15, 2012

COLUMBIA — Four members of the Missouri Students Association traveled to Jefferson City on Tuesday to deliver 6,000 letters opposing a higher education budget cut.

Last week, MSA set up a tent in the MU Student Center and asked fellow students to sign letters to Gov. Jay Nixon, district representatives and senators to protest Nixon’s proposed 15.1 percent cut to higher education in the State of the State address in January.

The petition campaign came after the University of Missouri System Board of Curators’ meeting Feb. 2-3 that addressed the looming issue of these higher education cuts within the UM System.

Of the letters, 2,000 were addressed to Nixon and 4,000 were addressed to other legislators.

Steven Dickherber, MSA executive chief of staff, said Zach Toombs, MSA director of student communications, proposed the idea of a petition. Toombs quickly gained the support of MSA president Xavier Billingsley and the Associated Students of the University of Missouri. The student group represents all UM campuses in state government issues.

While delivering the letters, a member of this group and members of MSA had the opportunity to attend the Missouri House Higher Education meeting and testify.

"The legislators were incredibly responsive," said MSA Academic Affairs Chairman Ben Levin. "No one came out and said they supported Nixon’s higher education funding proposition."

He also said the legislators seemed committed to fighting back against the cuts.

Levin said he doesn’t believe Nixon’s plan to designate $40 million of the $200 million mortgage settlement is a solution to the problem.

"This is the worst cut we’ve had in decades," he said, noting the $40 million is a "one-time thing," so it won’t be beneficial in the long-run.

"For the first time in years the students are having a strong voice in the legislature in regard to higher education funding," Toombs said.

Overall, the letters of petition were a success, Levin said.

"Two-thousand hand-signed letters does have an impact," he said. "Four-thousand letters for state legislators will turn some heads."

But according to Levin, the MSA campaign isn’t finished.

"We plan on being loud about this until Nixon signs in his budget," Levin said.

Going forward, Toombs said MSA hopes to reach out and get alumni and parents involved with the help of Mizzou Advocacy and the Mizzou Alumni Association.

In the last week, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Missouri University of Science and Technology launched similar letter-writing campaigns under the same "more for less" slogan and Twitter hashtag, Toombs said.

"At this point, we've gotten the message out," Toombs said. "And we've gotten legislators' attention."

Missourian reporter Zach Murdoch contributed to this report.

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Jimmy Bearfield February 15, 2012 | 11:13 a.m.

"MSA set up a tent in the MU Student Center and asked fellow students to sign letters to Gov. Jay Nixon, district representatives and senators to protest Nixon’s proposed 15.1 percent cut to higher education."

An ironic location. Students were willing to pay more to upgrade the Student Center and the rec center across the street, but when it comes to paying more for faculty salaries? No mas!

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