BY VERONES PADILLA
SC Staff Writer
On Tuesday, students and faculty gathered in a rally at the Stonehenge, across from the Reibman Administration Center. Many attendees wore red and black to show camaraderie. In the background members of the ESU band tuned their instruments.
There were others carrying signs in support of the various departments on the “chopping block.” The signs largely verbalized the positive and energized mood of the crowd. One sign read, “Retrenchment is counterintuitive to aid student retainment.”
The gatherers embraced and chatted as they waited for Dr. Allan Benn of the English Department to begin the rally.
Dr. Benn began the rally by asking the crowd, “Who are you?” The crowd responded with an uproarious “ESU.” He called ESU “home,” told the crowd that these were our “good ol’ days,” the days we will talk about in years to come. He urged the students to sign a petition because “We are a university, not a blend of vocational training.”
Dr. Nancy VanArsdale, Chair of the English Department, revved up the crowd with her speech. She spoke energetically about believing in music, philosophy, and the “mad scientist in the chemistry lab.” But she doesn’t believe in the new leadership at ESU.
“Our students are the center of this university. It’s not the buildings. Stand up students! Don’t let them wreck our university,” said VanArsdale.
Dr. Kenneth Mash of the Political Science Department called the rally a celebration, not a protest. He said those gathered were there to celebrate the students and faculty that make up ESU. “Our faculty are not just names on a list. They are committed to the university and to their students. We should be treating them with more respect.”
The last faculty speaker was Dr. Andrea McClanahan Chair of the Communications Department. The Communications Department had a “retrenchment” target on their back for much of the semester.
Dr. McClanahan spoke about being a product of a public education and devoting her life and heart to ESU. She told the students that administration had “ you were sorely underestimated when the president of this university said only five percent of students would recognize what was going on here.”
Next, students had the opportunities to speak about their concerns.
Student after student took the microphone and delivered anecdotes about what ESU and its professors mean to them.
Darasue Brawn, a freshman music major told her story. She is what some call a “non-traditional” student.
Brawn came to ESU as an adult student and fell in love with her first college experience.
She told the crowd about how the faculty of the music department shared their knowledge and insight and became a source of support, kindness, and inspiration.
When asked what her options would be if the music program was cut, Brawn said, “I’d have to go somewhere else.” Brawn said she was hurt and angry because she felt that administrative bureaucracy was destroying her dream.
“Why has admissions declined but administrators grown? Why is Welsh the 3rd highest paid president of the PASSHE schools?”
Michael Lloret, a music theatre major, recited a spoken word poem created using comments from his fellow classmates and peers.
He questioned why the university’s approach to education felt like a business. Lloret talked about mounting student debt and diminishing choices for students.
“Did I choose the right class or is it this school I regret?” he asked.
He also added, “Now knowledge and college put together it sounds funny. Because here at ESU when we talk about college all we do is talk about money.”
The students that spoke each shared a story of their personal struggles and how ESU faculty and student programs, like the Counseling Center, helped them through difficult times.
The theme of appreciation for faculty and professors continued when Amber Anderson, senior Biology major, said, “ESU is responsible for the adult I am. Now I am ready to go back to Philadelphia and teach kids that look just like me,” said Anderson.
Reps for the Pennsylvania State Representatives urged the student body to get politically involved.
The reps emphasized the importance of registering to vote and holding our elected officials accountable for their decisions. They laid the responsibility on the students’ shoulders when electing people to office that represent their best interests.
The webpage BelieveinESU.org links to a petition addressed to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
The petition addresses the cuts made at ESU in hopes of preventing further cuts to vital programs and faculty.
The petition is up and open for more signatures.
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