VIDEO: Hundreds of students protest funding cuts, SB 5

Zachary Fulton protests education budget cuts Friday Mar. 4 on College Green. Defend, Ohio! set up the protest in light of estimated state funding reductions for public schools. (Alex Goodlett | Staff Photographer)

About 250 people marched across campus chanting phrases such as “no ifs, no buts, no education cuts” this afternoon as part of an organized protest of budget cuts and Senate Bill 5.

The protest, attended by students, staff, faculty and Athens residents, included speeches in the Scripps Hall amphitheater, marching through College Green and East Green and protesting in front of Cutler Hall, where the president’s office is. The event, organized by Defend Education, Ohio!, began at noon and ended at about 2 p.m.

Protesters yelled in unison about education funding cuts as they marched throughout campus, and some held signs reading “Stand Up, Fight Back” and “This school needs another executive vice president like I need a hole in the head.” Other signs objected to Senate Bill 5 and athletics. The bill would reduce collective bargaining rights for public sector unions in Ohio, and passed in the state Senate on Wednesday.

Defend Education, Ohio! is a coalition of students, faculty, staff and community members that is organizing rallies, protests and educational events in light of probable state-level funding reductions for public schools next year. The coalition is organizing another protest for March 15, the day Gov. John Kasich releases his budget proposal that will likely include funding cuts for public higher education. OU could take an estimated $27 million hit for next year.

“I think it’s great students are out here in the rain supporting the cause,” said Student Senate President Jesse Neader, who attended the speech portion of the event.

Dean of Students Ryan Lombardi and Vice President for Finance and Administration Stephen Golding also attended the speeches at Scripps Amphitheater.

“The right to assembly is definitely … an important part of public education. It’s good to see people passionate about issues,” Lombardi said.

OU President Roderick McDavis is aware of the protest and will not try to stop protestors from voicing their opinions, said Becky Watts, his chief of staff. In response to protestors’ accusations that the administration does not listen to student opinions, Watts pointed out that McDavis holds open office hours and meets regularly with representatives from student and faculty senate.

“He takes their concerns into careful consideration … as part of his decision making. … He listens and he hears,” Watts said.

Defend Education, Ohio! has not made any attempt to contact McDavis, Watts said.

— Caitlin Bowling contributed to this report

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