Colorado State University-Pueblo students and faculty held a rally at Sister City Plaza in Pueblo on Thursday Jan. 16 to demonstrate a united front against proposed budget cuts and layoffs at the university.
Organizers passed out T-shirts that read “We Are CSU-Pueblo,” along with papers listing talking points and the contact information of government officials. Speakers included students, instructors and community members who oppose the cuts and feel CSU Chancellor Michael Martin does not have Southern Colorado’s best interests in mind.
The crowd of more than 50 people cheered the speakers, waved signs and showcased a huge red and blue banner that said “Save CSU-Pueblo.”
Ramon Padilla, a current student at CSU-Pueblo, told the crowd his education is extremely important, not only for himself, but also his family. Padilla has worked in the fields of southeastern Colorado for almost 15 years to realize his dream of getting a college degree.
“A university education has allowed generations of people from Southern Colorado to come out of the onion fields, and it’s true today for another generation. Thanks to the university, I know where I’m going. We can’t allow Chancellor Martin and his terrible vision for education in this state to force us back into the fields,” Padilla said.
As Padilla spoke, other speakers held bags of onions to drive the point home.
Theresa Trujillo, a Pueblo native, spent many weekends working with her father in the fields east of town. She remembers the lessons about work ethic and the value of manual labor, but mostly she remembers her father’s stories and the smell of onions that would cling to his skin for weeks after the harvest.
She said, “I don’t expect Chancellor Martin to understand what it means to live with the stench of onions on your hands, but it’s shameful that he wants to rob this part of the state of a quality education and deny opportunity. Like the onions, his plan stinks.”
The organizers of the rally said their goals were clear: to demonstrate a strong, united community voice about the value of the university and to provide a clear call to action.
“A lot of sacrifices were made and sacrifices are still being made by families working in the fields so their daughters and sons can be educated. It’s important we are here today to support our university,” Trujillo said.
Speaking of CSU-Pueblo’s proposed budget cuts, Trujillo added, “We know that education reduces poverty, boosts economic growth and helps people to live healthier lives. We also know that the only state in the entire country that spends less on K-12 education than Colorado is Mississippi. So, if we already have such inequality in how we fund and support K-12 education, why would we ever compound those inequities by failing to invest in communities like ours and our university?”
To close the rally, Fawn Montoya, history professor and director of the Chicano Studies program at CSU-Pueblo, drew a stark comparison between the struggle of the people in Southern Colorado today and the struggle of those who were killed in the Ludlow Massacre a century ago.
“We are the children of Ludlow,” she said. “The same battle is still being fought today.”
Montoya urged all in attendance to contact Gov. Hickenlooper, Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia and other state representatives to show support for the university and voice their concern at the proposed budget cuts.