ANNAPOLIS – Students, faculty and staff at the University System of Maryland’s flagship campus descended on Annapolis Tuesday in what officials hailed as a successful lobbying effort against more state budget cuts.
But the large turnout for College Park’s annual Terrapin Pride Day may have cost some employees more than others. Officials contend the outing was not a “free day” for university faculty and staff, yet some came on their own dime and others apparently didn’t.
The College Park campus has sponsored similar outings for the past several years, but Terrapin Pride Day drew considerably more attention Tuesday because legislators are considering additional cuts to the system’s budget, which already has been slashed by $67 million.
Officials said they encouraged employees to come and appeal to their local legislators, but they would not cancel classes or declare Tuesday a “free day” for students, faculty and staff.
“People have to take time off to come here,” said university spokesman George Cathcart. “They’ve got to put in vacation time or personal time.”
Added Provost William Destler: “Because it would be unethical to ask state employees to lobby on state time.”
Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees who work on campus had to take leave time, said Joe Lawrence, AFSCME spokesman.
Some employees in attendance said they took a vacation day or used a few hours of personal time to take off work, but others contend they were never told to report the leave, and that a final decision would be up to the discretion of their supervisors.
“I’m not,” said Isabella Moulton, when asked whether she’d use a vacation day to miss work from her position in the English department.
The university is counting on employees, faculty members and students to help get its message across about the higher education budget. A noon luncheon served as sort of a pep talk for those who planned to make afternoon rounds in the Senate and House office buildings.
“Tell (legislators) how important full funding of education is to you, your parents and your community,” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a 1964 graduate of the University of Maryland, told the crowd.
School officials estimate between 400 and 500 people boarded charter buses on campus around 11 a.m. to make the trek to Annapolis. Cathcart said the university’s alumni and parents’ associations chipped in for meal and transportation costs.
Joyce Matthews, who works in the residential facilities department, said she fears additional cuts could mean elimination of her tuition remission perk and a reduction in her health care benefits.
The trip to Annapolis cost her a personal day, she said, but her worries took precedence.
“People are really concerned that we’re going to be in a terrible crunch,” Matthews said. “Especially students and staff members — we are pulling together.”