Click here to make a contribution to Tent State University to stop the budget cuts at Rutgers!

Once again a short-sighted budget proposal from Governor Corzine imposes irresponsible budget cuts on Higher Education in New Jersey. As Rutgers President Richard McCormick informed the university community in his recent email, we face another 5% cut to our budget from the state this year. After a decade of budget reductions, funding for Rutgers University in 2009 barely amounts to the funding we received in 1997! The state government no longer provides even 50% of Rutgers University’s total yearly budget even though we are the state university of New Jersey! And once again, the budgets of our academic departments will be cut and tuition will rise sharply. Whether we are faculty, staff, current or prospective students, we will all be negatively impacted.

WE DO NOT HAVE TO ACCEPT THESE CUTS!

In the midst of this economic crisis, we face above all a crisis of values and leadership. Our state legislators in Trenton have the power to change both spending and tax policy for New Jersey. It is up to us to let them know that our university cannot function properly if its budget is cut year after year!

IF WE ALL DO OUR PART, WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Since 2003, Rutgers students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and community allies have worked hand in hand every April to roll back threatened budget cuts. For an entire week, we set up an alternative university on Voorhees Mall known as Tent State University and mobilize thousands of our peers to call and write to every single state assembly person and senator to demand full funding for Rutgers University. In 2003, then-Governor McGreevey had proposed the largest budget cuts to higher education in history. That year, Tent State University organizers generated over 2,000 individual phone calls to state legislators. The state legislature eventually rolled back tens of millions of dollars in cuts to Rutgers’ budget.

Congressman Frank Pallone and state legislators at Tent State University opening ceremonies.

In light of this tremendous success, the broad coalition that organized the first Tent State University in 2003 made it an annual event and continued to mobilize the university community to stop budget cuts to Rutgers in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. Congressman Frank Pallone, Higher Education committee Chair Patrick Diegnan, several state assemblypersons and senators and Rutgers President Richard McCormick all visited Tent State University and credited our efforts in helping to roll back budget cuts to higher education in New Jersey.

This year, have we launched a massive mobilization campaign for Tent State VII to stop the 2009 proposed budget cuts in their entirety. With years of experience engaging the university community in this effort and communicating directly with state legislators throughout the state, we stand better prepared than ever. We canvassed dorms on all campuses throughout the semester and spoke to students about the importance of everyone doing their part to safeguard the Rutgers budget. We personally invited dozens of state legislators to attend our opening ceremonies and affirm their support for full funding for Rutgers. And we are partnering with the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) to create hundreds of video testimonials of students and parents talking about how these cuts will affect them personally. These testimonials will be delivered directly to state legislators throughout the state.

Mobilizing the university community

Mobilizing the university community

WE NEED YOUR HELP!

Because of stringent state regulations, student groups are not allowed to spend ANY of their budgets to lobby the state legislature on behalf of higher education. You can make a real difference by helping to fund this important effort. Unless all of us do our part, every department could face cuts that none of us can afford!

Make a donation today

The total operating budget of Tent State University (including chapter tents, advertising, print materials, postage, cellular airtime, sound system, etc.) amounts to just $5,000. All the labor comes free of charge thanks to our many dedicated volunteers!

Yes, I want to do my part to save the Rutgers budget by making a contribution of:
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Want to get involved?

Call Charlie Kratovil at 908-295-8909 to arrange a meeting with a Tent State organizer.

Donations can also be sent to: 90 Bayard St., #2B, New Brunswick, NJ 08901. Make Checks payable to Tent State University.

TENT STATE UNIVERSITY

MISSION STATEMENT

We believe that higher education is an essential public good. As such, we implore the State of New Jersey to provide full and equitable access to higher education. We believe that full and equitable access is indispensable to the progress and prosperity of all citizens. Higher education should be a right of all citizens who possess the ability and willingness to attend. We have come together to ensure that the State of New Jersey prioritizes affordable college tuition and the expansion of the university system in order to make higher education available to all members of our society.

Tent State University opening ceremonies

Tent State University opening ceremonies

1. Problem: Funding for Higher Education

Every year, politicians, business leaders, academics, community leaders, and journalists laud higher education as crucial to a prosperous society. Yet, every year, higher education in New Jersey contends with inadequate funding. Inadequate funding has led to continually rising tuition and subsequent rising student debt, increased class sizes, hiring freezes, cut services and delays for necessary infrastructure improvements.

State revenue increases are an obvious solution. We, however, do not intend to demand money without consideration of the complex issues regarding the state budget. Still, we believe that too often state budget issues are oversimplified. Many politicians and media pundits help propagate the notion that there are only two options when it comes to taxes – increasing or decreasing. While research shows that Americans support more spending for higher education and social services, the public is led to believe that only a blanket tax increase can restore cuts or increase funding – an increase many believe they cannot afford given the rising costs of housing, health care, and higher education. On the other hand, most Americans support a tax-system that ensures that those who receive the greatest share of society’s resources contribute a greater share of those resources to maintain a strong public infrastructure that fulfills the promise of equal opportunity for all.

Still, we hear about ‘tough choices:’ between child care, homeless shelters, pre-school, pensions, property tax rebates, and higher education. The actual choice for New Jersey is not between higher education and property tax rebates or between higher education and pensions, but, rather, the choice should be raising taxes on the wealthy and taxing lawyer and accountant fees vs. higher education, pre-school, health care, and other vital social services that sustain a strong public infrastructure. This decision is hardly a ‘tough choice’.

2. Problem: Democratic Participation

One of the obstacles to the preceding proposals is the lack of democratic participation in our society. Less than half of the adult population votes in state elections. Even fewer do so with more than a superficial understanding of the issues at stake or where the candidates stand on such issues. Part of the reason is that many residents feel powerless in the face of government power. When citizens feel alienated from sources of government power, they tend to distrust government and the decisions they make with tax money. As a result, residents who agree with increased spending will vote against increases in revenue. Perhaps those who wish to tear down the public infrastructure see this scenario as a way to starve government of resources – thereby unwittingly forcing cuts to popular programs. However, the majority of citizens do not share these goals and we will assume that most of our elected representatives did not run for office in order to destroy the public infrastructure.

Young people are often a frequent target of those who wish to increase voter participation or, conversely, chastise non-voters. Young people do vote less than the general population. This fact is important for our democracy since young people who vote are likely to remain voters later in life. The lack of voter participation by young people is not the result of physiological factors associated with their age. Rather, several institutional factors coincide to depress voter turnout among young people. First, young people, especially college students, are a mobile population – not just physically but also socially and economically. One of the key factors to voter mobilization is the sense that one is part of a larger group or organization. Voting is not an individual but rather a collective expression. After all, some of the excuses of non-voters hold some merit – one vote does not matter. When state law limits the ability of students to participate in our democracy as a group, these limits will serve as an impediment to voting among young people – which will carry over into adulthood.

3. Problem: Accountability at Universities and Colleges

Like every large organization from corporations to non-profits, there is waste at most public colleges and universities. Cuts, however, do not solve the problem, as they primarily affect faculty, students, and staff. Managerial positions, however, proliferate as managerial salaries climb ever higher. With cuts, tuition rises, classes are cut, facilities remain inadequate – we are already teaching students in glorified trailers at our flagship university in New Brunswick – yet waste soldiers on.

The problem at our universities is not too much money, but rather too little democracy.

To combat waste we propose that the budgets of public universities and college be made more transparent. We also propose that students, faculty, and staff have a greater influence in the day-to-day governance of institutions of higher learning. Since democracy refers to the consent of the governed – those with the greatest stake in the university should help determine its direction. We believe that the State legislature can play a role in providing the tools for members of the university community to ensure the efficient running of the university.

4. Problem: Lack of Accessibility and Diversity

Accessibility and diversity is necessary for higher education to fulfill its role to society. Education is supposed to be the primary means to achieving the ideal of equal opportunity. However, when one set of students must sink themselves into debt in order to obtain an education, while another can receive an education and starts her or his career debt-free, equal access and opportunity remain little more than deceptive rhetoric.

We seek greater diversity in terms of race and class at all institutions of higher learning. We believe and studies show that diversity both enhances the cultural and intellectual experience for all students. Diversity is also an important measure of a society’s commitment to equal opportunity.

CONCLUSION

Today, Americans are working longer hours and putting more workers in the workforce per household. Even though we are more educated and more productive, most of us face stagnant or declining wages and unprecedented levels of debt as the cost of education, housing and healthcare skyrocket. Now we are told we can no longer afford public education, a secure retirement or even consider universal health care. What we are witnessing is not simply happenstance or the result of impersonal forces; it is the culmination of 25 years of deregulation, privatization, and tax cuts.

We are a diverse set of groups, organizations, and individuals, working on a variety of issues. We have come together on the issue because we all understand that higher education is not a special interest issue. Rather, the specific issues that each of our different organizations works with are all related to larger issues in our society. We seek to alter the misplaced priorities of both state government and the federal government. We are not students concerned solely with our own personal finances but rather those who view higher education as essential to our diverse set of goals which are aimed at improving the quality of life in contemporary America. We seek to reverse the trends of recent years and ensure a more economically-just future for all Americans.