WKU joins several Kentucky universities in rally for higher education

Ambriehl Crutchfield

WKU organizations hosted a rally Thursday in Centennial Mall as part of a statewide “Rally for Higher Education.”

The rally was held at noon and highlighted the effects budget cuts, faculty and staff reductions and a weakening tenure system are having on students. The Department of Sociology and Criminology hosted the rally with the Queer Student Union, the Transgender Non-Binary Group and the Center for Citizenship and Social Justice. Other public universities, like the University of Kentucky and Northern Kentucky University, held similar rallies on their campuses.

Jessica Simpson, a graduate student in sociology, said the event was organized to unite K-12 teachers with faculty and staff in higher education.

Simpson said that when “our state does not prioritize our education system, we’ve seen major cuts to programs…and also our higher education.”

“We’re advocating for our students,” Simpson said. “If we don’t have the resources we need, we cannot do our jobs, and we cannot lift up Kentucky’s children with an empty tool kit.”

Simpson said while she believes teaching is a noble profession, she has concerns about students pursuing that profession going into debt and potentially facing unemployment in the future. 

John Conley, an English professor, said it was important to him to show up and make connections with people in his local community.

“It’s been a really nice reminder for me when I’m frustrated about what’s going on in my work place, at my university and in my state that it’s not just me,” Conley said. “There’s actually a lot of folks who are not just feeling the effects and the impacts of budget cuts and budget cutting but are feeling really upset and want to get together and speak up about it.”

Conley said he felt inspired while at the rally seeing that public school teachers and higher education employees were able to unite and voice their concerns.

Rally attendees also had the opportunity to register to vote.

Campbellsville senior Jeremy McFarland spoke to the crowd and encouraged them to use voting to create change.

“Education was a pathway out of poverty,” McFarland said. “Now, it is a pathway into it.”

A previous version of this story named Jessica Simpson as a part-time sociology instructor. Simpson is actually a graduate student in sociology. Additionally, Simpson was originally attributed as saying that part of the purpose of the rally was to inspire long-lasting change. Comments about teachers living below the poverty line were also attributed to Simpson and have been revised for clarity. The Herald regrets the errors. 

News reporter Ambriehl Crutchfield can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]. Follow Ambriehl on Twitter at @ambriehlc.