This is what a protest against education funding cuts looks like?
  • E.S.
  • This is what a protest against education funding cuts looks like?

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Today being a "Statewide Day of Action" and all, I made my way over to Red Square on the University of Washington campus to see what kind of action the students would be taking against proposed cuts to education funding that could raise their tuition by 30 percent next year.

Granted, the UW students' response to this "Day of Action" was tabling, rather than rallying, but still: Where was everyone?

The legislature may cut education funding in this state by more than $600 million this session, potentially putting a college education out of reach for many Washingtonians and causing other Washingtonians who are currently in college to have to drop out because of tuition hikes.

This isn't a reason to walk out into the rain, head over to Red Square, and sign a petition or call a state representative? This isn't as relevant to student life as the October campaign swing by President Obama that drew 15,000 people, a huge number of them students, to the UW's Hec Ed Pavilion?

"I think a lot of people don't understand," said Helen Wytco, a sophomore from Poulsbo who was manning the table and might lose her financial aid—and her ability to stay in school—because of proposed cuts. "There's a lot of info and the legislation is very complicated."

True, legislation is complicated, but a possible 30 percent increase in tuition is a pretty simple concept to grasp. So where was the demonstration of student opposition? "I think when they start seeing the actual effects it could happen," Wytco said.

Of course, by then it will be too late. The legislation will already have been passed.

The tablers at the UW told me 42 people had come by, dialed the suggested number into their cell phones, and made their opposition to education cuts known to a state legislative hotline. That's something. But it's not much of something.

On butcher paper spread over the table, one student had written to state legislators:

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In England they rioted for education. You are lucky we are more well mannered.

Lucky? Perhaps. But also less likely to listen. (And here it would take far less than a riot to get the attention of most lawmakers.)