The University of Connecticut faces up to $40 million in budget cuts, and while Democrats work behind closed doors on a revamped proposal, students, faculty and administrators pleaded their case to members of the General Assembly on Tuesday.
"We all know why we’re here," said UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma, a week after claiming his tenth national title. "We’re here to raise awareness about what we’re doing at UConn.”
Auriemma and others described how UConn has grown exponentially over the past 30 years and that the General Assembly and multiple governors' support was the primary reason.
"It’s a very very tough time for the state but we don’t want to move backward," said UConn President Susan Herbst. "We want to keep moving forward on all fronts."
Herbst has said publicly that the current version of the budget could lead to layoffs and program cuts.
Students from the school's nursing, agriculture and engineering programs rallied at the capitol on Tuesday.
Nursing student Elizabeth Schilling said she wants future students to have the same opportunities she was afforded and fears a budget cut may change that.
"I’m very nervous for them. I feel like you have to be a very special person to be a nurse. You have to have something special inside of you to be a nurse, and something like a budget cut would just be devastating to keep a child away from becoming a nurse," Schilling said.
State Sen. Mae Flexer, a Democrat who represents Storrs and UConn, says she will work in the current budget process to protect the state's flagship university.
"What’s at risk is making sure that UConn is there not only for the best and the brightest and that it’s also affordable," Flexer said.
Auriemma urged lawmakers not to view UConn as just another program worth cutting, but instead as an institution worth supporting.
"We’re not telling you to vote no for them. We’re asking you to vote yes, for UConn," he said.