FAMU students march against state funding cuts

On Thursday afternoon, Florida A&M University students rallied and marched to the Capitol to lobby the Legislature.

The student-led event focused on a number of issues — primarily a halt to tuition increases and to show support for the New Florida Initiative.

New Florida is a proposal by the Board of Governors that would shift the focus of the state’s economy to knowledge and innovation. The proposal would increase funding to all public universities in Florida.

The march from campus came just days after FAMU announced it would not be able to host its annual day at the Capitol because of budget constraints.

Calvin Hayes, student body vice president, said the goal was to get the attention of legislators.

“We want them to hear us — students drive the economy in Tallahassee,” Hayes said. “We invest in so many things. Where are our priorities? Education should be the No. 1 priority.”

The event attracted nearly 150 students, including 15 who recently completed a crash course in lobbying techniques. The students were split into groups of 10 and there was a lobbyist assigned to each group. In most cases, the students were able to meet with aides, not specific legislators.

Tola Thompson, director of governmental relations for FAMU, applauded the students for their involvement.

“The students’ lobby agenda in support of the New Florida Initiative, a planning grant for a FAMU dental school, and for investments in higher education are commendable,” he said.

Iman Sandifer, a student senator from FAMU, said Thursday’s march and rally was an opportunity for the students to have their voices heard.

“The purpose today was to show if the university is in a situation where they can’t afford to have a big day at the Capitol, that we still care enough about our own university to march,” Sandifer said. “We’re still here.”

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