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Hundreds rally to protest governor’s proposed budget cuts

University official: Students should tell lawmakers how cuts would affect them

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Sam Morris

UNLV students protest about proposed budget cuts outside the Grant Sawyer Building Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2010, after staging a campus walkout.

Updated Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2010 | 5:27 p.m.

UNLV Student Walkout (2-9-10)

UNLV students protest proposed budget cuts Tuesday, February 9, 2010. Launch slideshow »

Raw video of rally

Cloudy skies and a chilly drizzle did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the estimated 700 UNLV students who turned out for a campus rally today to protest proposed budget cuts to higher education.

Organizers of the rally had urged students to walk out of class at 10 a.m. to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with Gov. Jim Gibbons’ proposed budget, which calls for steep reductions in funding for both higher education and K-12 schools.

John Goldman, the university’s campus life director, told the students they needed to take the proposed cuts personally. He urged them to write letters to lawmakers and tell them exactly how a hike in student fees, or requiring faculty to take an additional five furlough days per month – both possible scenarios – would affect them.

The rally participants, many holding signs and banners, piled into two chartered buses for the 15-minute trip to the Sawyer Building, where the protest was carried over to the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee meeting. Other students followed in their own vehicles.

The turnout was impressive, said UNLV President Neal Smatresk, who stood in the crowd with university system Chancellor Dan Klaich and James Dean Leavitt, chairman of the Board of Regents. Students gathered around Smatresk and posed for pictures, many snapped with cell phones.

“It means a lot, you being here,” one young woman told Smatresk. “You’re like the head of the whole place.”

Smatresk shook her hand, telling her, “You’re being here means even more.”

There were some faculty members scattered in the crowd, as well, including John Naccarato, an associate affiliate professor of journalism at UNLV, who said he supported his students’ decision to skip class today. Naccarato said he was a student at Kent State University, the site of a Vietman War protest that turned deadly when National Guardsmen fired on the crowd.

“This is my first protest since 1970,” Naccarato said. “That’s how important this is.”

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