By Ryan J. Stanton
March 15, 2011
The College Democrats at the University of Michigan have joined the list of those opposing Gov. Rick Snyder’s delivery of the April 30 commencement speech.
The university announced Monday that President Mary Sue Coleman was recommending the Board of Regents approve Snyder as the speaker and grant him an honorary degree.
The College Democrats note the announcement comes just three weeks after the Republican governor proposed a 15 percent cut in higher education funding, as well as deep cuts to K-12 education, as part of a budget plan that includes $1.8 billion in tax breaks for businesses.
Amanda Caldwell, chair of College Democrats, released a statement saying she respects Snyder’s commitment to public service, recognizes his accomplishments as an entrepreneur and appreciates his work in the Ann Arbor community.
“His good character, inspiring story, and high office would normally make him well-suited to deliver the keynote address at commencement,” Caldwell said. “His selection, though, is a slap in the face to students struggling to afford tuition, as he proposed a 15 percent cut in state appropriations for higher education only three weeks ago. This cut would harm the university and members of the university community — faculty, staff, and students alike.”
As someone who earned three degrees from U-M, Snyder ought to understand the importance of affordable public education, Caldwell said.
“It is unfortunate that Gov. Snyder is addressing students who will not suffer the consequences of his proposed cuts,” she said. “After all, if he was addressing New Student Convocation in the fall, he might have to explain to students how he expects them to afford ever increasing tuition with less and less support from the state.”
The College Democrats note that state funding has dropped significantly as a percentage of U-M’s general fund budget since Snyder was a student. When he was earning his three degrees in the late 1970s and early 1980s, state funding comprised roughly 60 to 70 percent of the university’s general fund. Today, the state provides just over 20 percent.
“Not surprisingly, tuition increases have filled the gap at the expense of students,” the College Democrats said in a statement. “In fact, inflation-adjusted in-state tuition at the university’s law school is about 738 percent higher than it was when he received his J.D. in 1982.”
The group is planning to join thousands of fellow progressives from across Michigan on Wednesday for a rally at the state Capitol building. They plan to let Snyder know they reject his proposed budget that cuts K-12 and higher education funding.
Free buses will leave campus at 1 p.m. by the Cube and return to Ann Arbor at 7 p.m.
Sara Wurfel, a spokeswoman for Snyder, said in an e-mail on Monday that Snyder is committed to “forging ahead and tackling misinformation and the tough issues, like he said he’d do, and building a solid and strong Michigan that works for everyone.” Snyder’s proposed budget and tax plan, she said, is based on fairness and preserving core safety net services while improving and strengthening the economy so all can prosper and benefit.
Michigan filmmaker Michael Moore is one of those promoting Wednesday’s rally. He sent out a mass e-mail on Monday urging people to make the trip to Lansing to protest the “cruel and downright frightening legislation currently being jammed down our throats.”
“What is most shocking to many is that the new governor, who ran against the Tea Party and defeated the right wing of his party in the primaries — and then ran in the general election as ‘just a nerd from Ann Arbor’ who was a moderate, not an ideologue — has pulled off one of the biggest Jekyll and Hyde ruses I’ve ever seen in electoral politics,” Moore wrote. “Governor Snyder, once elected, yanked off his nice-guy mask to reveal that he is in fact a multi-millionaire hell-bent on destroying our state and turning it over to his buddies from Wall Street.”