COLLEGE PARK -- After protests yesterday at the University of Maryland over budget cuts, a coalition of faculty, staff, parents, students and alumni organizations today planned to kick off a lobbying effort for legislation to restore funding for public higher education.
News conferences were called for today in College Park and Annapolis on an emergency bill sponsored by four Prince George's County legislators and being prefiled for the 1992 General Assembly session.
The bill would reverse the cuts in higher education for fiscal year 1992, which ends next June 30, and fiscal year 1993. It would take $38,121,000 in corporate income tax revenues this year from the Transportation Trust Fund and return them to the General Fund for public higher education, including all 11 campuses of the University of Maryland System, Morgan State University and St. Mary's College. The $80 million going into the trust fund next year would be used for fiscal 1993, under the bill.
The sponsors are Sen. Arthur Dorman and Dels. James C. Rosapepe, Timothy F. Maloney and Pauline H. Menes, all Democrats who represent the College Park area.
The lobbying effort comes one day after about 2,000 students, faculty and campus workers protested $40 million in budget cuts. U.S. 1, which is near the campus, was blocked for a time and 12 protesters were arrested.
"I've been here since 1975," said Roz Hiebert, a spokeswoman for the college. "I wasn't here for the Vietnam demonstrations, but I do remember the protests for Cambodia. This is by far the largest demonstration I've seen since then."
OC Chanting "No more cuts," the protesters gathered in the mall in
front of the main administration building about noon. President William E. Kirwan was among the speakers.
An hour later, the protest had moved to the middle of U.S. 1 and students were sitting down in the middle of the road. And, within another couple of hours, 11 students and an instructor were charged with disorderly conduct for obstructing traffic. All 12 were released on their own recognizance, according to the Prince George's County District Court commissioner's office.
The protesters had planned to march from the campus mall, down Campus Drive to U.S. 1 and back to the mall, said Callan David, 21, a member of the Student Government Association which was one of the sponsors of the protest.
But the plan quickly changed.Only about a third of the students marched back to the mall. The rest remained in the middle of U.S. 1 just off the campus.
Campus police cordoned off the road and rerouted traffic. But campus officials said that when students decided to block U.S. 1 they were no longer on campus property, but county property.
Students debated among themselves the pros and cons of sitting in the middle of the road. While organizers urged them to save their anger for a planned march on Annapolis Thursday, others said their protest had more meaning if they stayed.
A university teaching assistant, who refused to give his name, urged students to join him in the sit-down.
"I've got a job on the line," said the teaching assistant. "They've got an education on the line. You want to take me away, then take me away."
He was joined by Lorelei Harris, 22, a sophomore.
As time passed, and temperatures continued to drop, students began to disperse. Still, more than 100 students remained milling about in the middle of the road. Students, police, and college officials tried to persuade them to leave.
"I think what you're doing is great, but this is not the way to do it guys," Callan David said. "You're not going to help us in Annapolis."
J. Robert Dorfman, vice president for academic affairs, told the protesters they had made their point, but it was time to leave.
"What we need is to get this word to Annapolis, and we've done this," Dorfman said. "What you're doing now is hurting the university."
At 3 p.m., about 20 officers of the county Sheriff's Department joined the dozen campus police to break up the demonstration.
Armed with billy clubs, officers moved the crowd out of the road. The 12 who had refused to move got up peacefully as police approached. They were handcuffed, searched and loaded into a patrol wagon.
Dev Pathik, 20, who earlier had asked the crowd to leave, was one of the 12 arrested.
"I saw what these people were willing to do for me and I felt I had to join them," Pathik said. "It was the least I could do. At least I'll know that I stood up for something I believed in."