May 24, 2019 | 62° F

NJUS hopes for large turnout at Walk into Action

Members of the University's sector of the New Jersey United Students (NJUS) will have to counter a dreary weather forecast and traditional student apathy to yield a large turnout tomorrow for the first ‘Walk into Action.'

The rally, which will call for increased funding for higher education in the state, is set to take place at 2 p.m. on Voorhees Mall on the College Avenue campus.

"Rain or shine, it's definitely going to happen," said Matthew Cordeiro, a coordinator of the event.

Ten other public universities in the state, including William Patterson University and The College of New Jersey, will hold similar events on their campuses.

"We're hoping that it's a very energetic rally that students can come together and have a unified voice," said Beth Breslaw, NJUS member.

Cordeiro said he is hoping for about 300 students to join tomorrow's rally at the University and about 1,000 total across the state.

"Right now, we're really focusing on outreach. The really big thing is getting people to the rally," Cordeiro said.

Sam Brusco, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, said he has seen the publicity for the event on the side of buildings and in many University classrooms.

Though he supports the cause, as it was difficult for him to pay for school this semester, he is not sure he will attend.

"I might go to it," he said. "[Class] is kind of important, with finals coming up, but I have been thinking about it."

On the event's Facebook page, more than 500 people expect to attend the Voorhees protest, which will feature student speakers as well as speakers from local unions.

Although the event will take place in the middle of the day, when many students are in classes, Cordeiro said he is not concerned there will be a low turnout.

"If people do one thing this year, they definitely need to come out," said Cordeiro, who is also vice president of the NJUS-supporting Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA). "It will be a really awesome and empowering event, and the more students that come out, the more empowering it is."

Joy Stoffers, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student who plans to graduate a year early to save money, said she supports the cause but will not rally tomorrow.

"I have too many school-related things I can't get out of. … I think that a lot more people are ambivalent. It's probably going to be a 50-50 split," she said.

Cordeiro said some professors are taking their classes to the event, offering extra credit for attendance or not marking absences.

"We've had tons of professors supporting [our cause]," he said.

Breslaw, also a RUSA representative, said the rally would piggyback off a speak-out at 11:30 a.m. on the steps of Brower Commons on the College Avenue campus. University faculty and staff a part of the Union of Rutgers Administrators-American Federation of Teachers intend to discuss the salary freezes over the years.

William Ryan, a teaching assistant in the Department of English who also taught English at a public high school, plans to attend tomorrow's ‘Walk into Action.'

"The current attack on teachers' unions and public education in general is pretty troubling," he said. "I'm all for [the rally]."

Tazeen Shiliwala, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said she is considering attending as well.

"At least [the government will] hear our voices. At least we're saying something rather than being quiet and letting them do what they want to," she said.

Shiliwala said the cuts to financial aid this year affected her ability to buy textbooks.

"I usually get extra [money] for books, but I didn't, so I had to pay from my own pocket for my books," she said. "There's a lot of readings to do and they're a lot of books, and it's hard to get all the books when you don't have the money."

Cordeiro said he has not yet heard any opposition to the movement.

"I think that is indicative that we're doing the right thing," said Cordeiro, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.

He said many student organizations, such as Rutgers Students Against Sweatshops, have also joined the cause and provided funding for the campaign, which cost about $800 to $1,000, mostly for printing costs.

The day after the rally, NJUS representatives from each of the 12 member schools will meet with an adviser from Gov. Chris Christie's office to discuss improving state dedication to higher education and increasing state funding.

"This is why the ‘Day of Action' is so important, because the more students that come out gives the students there more leverage," Cordeiro said. "We can say, ‘Hey, students do support us.'"

Christie said in his budget proposal this year he would maintain the level of funding for higher education. The state last year cut aid to the University by 15 percent.

"If we really care about this state's future, we have to fund the future and invest in education," Cordeiro said.

Mary Diduch

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