UNH students join lobby efforts to restore university funding
DURHAM - About 60 college students took a few minutes out of their day Tuesday and Wednesday to write letters to their representatives encouraging them to restore cut funding to the University System of New Hampshire.
The letter-writing campaign was organized by the external affairs committee of the graduate and undergraduate student senates. Students who wrote letters could submit their name to win a $100 gift certificate to the on-campus computer store or two $25 gift cards to Dunkin' Donuts.
Senior Nick Mignanelli, 21, said he was disappointed that the groups needed to resort to incentives to get students to write letters.
"I think if students are really civically engaged, wouldn't they be doing it independently," said Mignanelli, who grew up in Campton. "The point of sending letters is to show students really want this, so what would be the need for gift cards in exchange for writing letters."
Several students the New Hampshire Union Leader spoke with Wednesday said the incentives had little or nothing to do with why they were writing letters.
Senior Gina Guadagnoli, 21, heard about the campaign through Facebook and thought it was a great opportunity to share her thoughts with her representative. Guadagnoli grew up in Dover and said it has always been important to her to stay involved with issues facing the university.
She said the university will be affected in myriad ways if funding remains at such a low level, from an inability to attract top-level professors to hurting research capabilities or scholarships for students in need.
In 2011, the New Hampshire Legislature voted to reduce state funding by about 49 percent, or $32.5 million.
Glenn Reiss, 24, is an out-of-state student from Pennsylvania. He said he also has concerns about what tuition hikes could do to out-of-state students if in-state tuition is frozen for the next two years. That concern prompted him to write a letter.
Sophomore Emily Lohr, 19, of Hanover said in her classes, they have been talking about the effects sequestration could have on financial aid. After doing some additional research about state budget cuts, she said she came down to the Strafford Room to write a letter about her concerns for financial aid.
Michaela Barry, 22, is putting herself through college and works multiple jobs.
As a senior, Barry said she came down to write a letter in the hopes that a restoration of funds will help someone else down the road.
"I thought maybe this would help, I didn't know if there was something else I could really do," Barry said.
When asked about the incentive prizes, Barry said she had not heard about them.
Senior Carter Bascom, 22, is the UNH undergraduate student senate external affairs council chairman.
He said the council wanted to help the UNH Works campaign,which is designed to help university supporters advocate for a restoration of funding, by reaching out to the student body.
Bascom said like many events or with many surveys or other campaigns, an incentive was offered to help encourage students to turn out.
"We're still only going to get the students who really care or are motivated to do something," Bascom said. "I understand there are qualms with the incentives but it is not unheard of."