Ohio University students and faculty gathered Saturday on College Green to protest proposed budget cuts to OU’s Center for Law, Justice and Culture, or CLJC.
All “friends” of the center received an email from it March 22 outlining the possible repercussions budget cuts would have. If the cuts are implemented by OU, they could have “drastic implications for CLJC and Ohio University,” according to the email.
The fallout of budget cuts would also include a possible elimination of OHIO Pre-Law Day, a discontinuation of lectures and visits from prominent legal scholars and a relocation of Larry Hayman, a pre-law adviser and specialist at OU, the email said.
Dozens of demonstrators held signs and chanted in support of the CLJC while a few demonstrators spoke before the crowd to share their thoughts.
Olivia Gemarro, a senior studying English and sociology-criminology, was one of the students to stand up and speak.
“As the students, we are entitled to quality education, and we’re not getting that if our programs are being defunded,” Gemarro said. “Cutting (the CLJC’s) budget will effectively ruin the program and this university.”
Students and other demonstrators cheered as Gemarro spoke, and some booed at the mention of Executive Vice President and Provost Elizabeth Sayrs and College of Arts and Sciences Dean Florenz Plassmann, both of whom many credit with the proposed cuts.
Micaela Beatham-Garcia, a junior studying political science pre-law, helped organize the demonstration along with a couple of other students. She said she did it because she wanted to see the university fund the CLJC.
“We hope that (OU will) adequately fund the undergraduate and graduate programs for the Center for Law, Justice and Culture as well as keep the pre-law adviser, Larry Hayman, full-time at Center for Law, Justice and Culture so he can continue advising pre-law students, supporting pre-law organizations and initiatives like diversity and inclusion and having meaningful conversations across campus,” Beatham-Garcia said.
Save OUr Profs, a student-organized social media movement that supports OU’s faculty and staff, tweeted in support of the event, along with OU’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, or OU-AAUP.
“Proposed budget cuts to the CLJC would be devastating for the campus community, for undergraduate experiential learning opportunities, and for the regional impact of @ohiou,” OU-AAUP said in a tweet.
After news of the proposed cuts broke, the ACLU of Ohio sent a letter March 24 to Sayrs and Plassmann, expressing concern over defunding the CLJC and acknowledging Hayman and the center’s important work at OU.
“Under Mr. Hayman’s leadership, CLJC has flourished, playing a crucial role in the development of curious legal minds and setting up students for success,” the letter reads. “CLJC’s supportive groups and innovative programs have especially uplifted students of color and those who are economically disadvantaged.”
Some of the students gathered on College Green were not part of the CLJC but found importance in holding the university accountable for the budget cuts.
“I think it's very important that we're all here … getting the word out and trying to save the program,” Michael Juscak, a junior studying civil engineering, said. “If the engineering program was getting cut or something like that, I'd be upset, and I would totally be out here because that's my future, and it's their future, so I think they have every right to come out here and defend it.”
After students, faculty and staff spoke to the crowd, the demonstrators marched to Cutler Hall to deliver a petition. The demonstrators also took pictures in front of the hall and placed homemade signs on the steps.
Despite not having a personal connection to the cause, Juscak said he hopes the event will catch the attention of university officials.
“I think if any of the administration comes out and sees that there's people really pushing for this program, then maybe there will be a change,” Juscak said. “I think it's very important that the higher ups at Ohio University recognize … the students, what they want and what they need.”