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Battles at the Capitol: Student frustrations pushed to the press

Students have been communicating frustration that’s been boiling about how state funds are distributed to universities in Idaho.

GLENN LANDBERG/THE ARBITER - Stephen Heleker, president of the Associated Students of Boise State University, speaks to a crowd of media personnel and students Wednesday in the Capitol. Heleker's press conference focused on unequal funding distribution from the state to Idaho universities.

Members of the local media, Boise State students and student representatives filed into room EW05 in the Capitol Wednesday for a press conference. Initiated and promoted by the Associated Students of Boise State University (ASBSU), the event was used as platform for students to communicate frustration that’s been boiling about how state funds are distributed to universities in Idaho.

The public action taken by ASBSU was a nice link to many similar instances this year. With various uprisings in the Middle East, protests in Wisconsin and student walkouts in Idaho, civic activism seems to be the top trend for 2011.

Stephen Heleker, ASBSU president, helped initiate the event at the Capitol. He said the press conference was not an attack on the State Board of Education or state legislatures. The objective was to generate conversations and action in the population.

“We have been discussing ways to address this issue since last semester, but weren’t sure what the first move would be,” Heleker said. “When the State Board of Education released adjusted statistics regarding higher education funding per student, we talked with some other involved students on campus and decided that we had the information we needed to take concrete steps.”

The press conference was the first step in a campaign intended to raise awareness and to prompt action from students at Boise State.

“There are still a lot of students who don’t know how much funding inequity exists between Idaho colleges and universities. I imagine that many students will be shocked and angry when they learn the truth, and I hope that they will step up and join in our effort,” Heleker said.

The steps taken by ASBSU have been a long time coming. The funding Boise State University receives from the state is about 67 percent of what the University of Idaho receives according to ASBSU’s statement to the press. The disparity in funding is not a new phenomenon — it’s been going on for years and it’s about time a group of students took action.

The numbers are difficult to crunch and the issue as a whole is not easy to digest. To help ensure the momentum started Wednesday carries past this week, there will be more events on campus.

Student action on this campus is often difficult to find. Because Boise State is a commuter school, the extent to which students invest their energy into political action has historically been limited. When students put their blinders on to big issues, they allow the status quo to persist. In this case, the status quo means Boise State will receive less money per student despite tax payers investing the same amount of money into the system as a whole. Every student who pays taxes gives a disproportionate amount of that money to the other Idaho universities.

The voice of 20,000 active people resonates loudly to people in power. The action ASBSU is taking is great for the university. Hopefully students will reciprocate and finally stand up for themselves.

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