– Matt Hastings
4:30 a.m. was a harsh time to make a drive to school, but through the haze of the early morning, we made our way onto the bus that would take us to “Rally in Tally”. A group of about 50 students mostly comprised of SDS and student government members traveled to Tallahassee with intentions of expressing discontent against the further weakening of Florida’s education system. The lawmakers’ continuing trend of raising tuition and fees and slashing services was of particular grievance to many students.
An itinerary of the day’s scheduled events included the following: a 10:30 trip to the Higher Education Appropriations Committee Meeting, Lunch, the rally on the Capitol at 1:00 and then a two hour period of meetings with various legislators in their office. Unfortunately, shortly after arriving it was evident that much of what was said to happen was either cancelled or cut short, resulting in groups walking endlessly around Florida’s Capitol building. Although the emphasis of the event seemed to be centered on the need for better policies for students, much of what was said during the rally was vague statements about students’ potential. There was little mention by the speakers about policies that would directly benefit the over 300 students present. The most sparking event of the day was the demonstration on the capitol steps by SDS/Fight Back Florida members, who were equipped with signs and statements that captured the true nature of student frustration. The demonstration was met with a positive response by FSA Student Representative Mike Long and Representative Darryl Russon.
What seemed to be the most imperative event of the day, the meetings with legislators associated with House Education committees, failed in many aspects. Most representatives and senators were called into sudden meetings during the portion scheduled to meet with them. During this portion we were also instructed by USF Student Government President Matt Diaz to hand out cards expressing gratitude to lawmakers’ (as of now undecided) support for higher education, along with a USF pin and a message from Matt Diaz on the cards. Many representatives would not accept Diaz’s cards as it is against House ethics rules to accept gifts from universities and their student governments. Despite the event being scheduled in a two hour block for meetings, it was cut in half and time was made for the provided dinner earlier at 3:30 p.m.
This day’s events should only serve to embolden students’ in their quest for a strong student movement that is organized and empowers the voice of the students from around the state. Students’ should not be placated by the attempts of those in charge to dismiss the will of students. Attempts to nurture a bond between administrators of schools and government and students is always welcomed, but until actual results are forthcoming, the student voice will only grow louder.
More Rally in Tally photos: USF SG Facebook