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Campus protests: University of Maryland

About four dozen University of Maryland students skipped class this afternoon (or walked out at noon) to gather in a hallway of the Arts and Sociology building for an "open occupation." The event was part of a planned national protest against higher education budget cuts.The hall was decorated with banners reading "Demand nothin, occupy 'erything,'" "Life sucks, let's dance" and "Here we spontane!"

umdprotest.jpgThe students -- a few wearing tie-dyed shirts -- sat and listened to guest speakers on topics such as athletic spending at big-name universities. They also discussed how to grow their movement. Organizers admitted they were hoping for a much, much larger turnout.

Marty Handelman learned of the rally from a flier and decided to attend. "It really clicked. This is really important and I should really be a part of this," said Handelman, 21, a junior environmental restoration management major. "This is really just a gathering about what's wrong with public education."

One of the organizers, student Bob Hayes, said Maryland students are angry that their tuition dollars are going to pay for development projects and the salaries of administrators instead of better instruction. "We feel disconnected from our education," Hayes said. "We're being run by a Fortune 500 company instead of by a university."

Maryland universities, in contrast to most schools in the nation, have ridden out the recession with a four-year tuition freeze and comparatively generous state funding. But Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) responded to the funding crisis this year by ending the freeze and proposing a 3 percent tuition hike for the next academic year.

"It's not fair," said Jon Berger, 21, a junior government and politics major. "We didn't cause this financial crisis. We shouldn't have to pay for it."

Last week, the student government held an emergency session andpassed a resolutionopposing tuition increases. It urged lawmakers to increase state funding for higher education and asked that low-income students not be put at a disadvantage. Earlier resolutions to fully support or fully oppose the tuition hike did not receive enough votes to pass, according to freshman legislator Zach Cohen, who co-sponsored the final bill.

Student government member Katelyn Gallagher said the split in the student government mirrors the general student feeling on campus: Students do not want their tuition to go up, but they also do not want to lose any of the services offered.

"It's kind of like a toll booth," said Gallagher, a senior government major. "You have to pay. You have to go if you want a job."

Track today's national protests on The Post's Higher Education page.

By Jenna Johnson  |  March 4, 2010; 5:01 PM ET
 | Tags: University of Maryland  
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The undergrads' tuition has actually decreased in the last 4 years due to inflation. Grad students' tuition has gone up more than 4 percent every year of the last 4 years, and our tuition is going up 6 percent next year.

Posted by: mschol17 | March 5, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

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