The most important identity I own is that of a first generation college student. Montana State University has afforded me opportunities that my parents didn’t have and I write this in the hopes that the next generation will also have the opportunity to attend a public, land-grant institution.

Without a doubt, the Montana University System is underfunded and under-prioritized by the Montana Legislature. In the wake of revenue decreases, they chose to further reduce funding to our system and Senate Bill 261 threatens to further reduce our budget. But the recent trend of filling budget shortfalls by soliciting and accepting private funding is detrimental to the university system. It subverts the democratic ideals of a land-grant university and hampers scientific and research autonomy.

MSU can weather a budget storm with values intact, but allowing private interests to undermine the our mission will have grievous consequences.

MSU is a land-grant, public university, funded by the Montana’s citizens public taxes with the express purpose of educating Montana’s sons and daughters and everyone in between. It is shameful that legislature would underfund our university system for political gain.

Legislators’ refusal to increase state revenue and prioritize the state general fund including education, the Department of Corrections and the Department of Health and Human Services is at fault here, and people will suffer as a result.

As MSU’s convocation speaker, Bryan Stevenson, writes, “Fear and anger are a threat to justice. They can infect a community, a state, or a nation, and make us blind, irrational and dangerous.” We may be angry -- frightened, even -- by the current budget crisis. But we must have the courage to come together and find solutions that remain true to character as participants in a Democracy. I urge the Legislature to reconvene in a special session to increase state revenue.

Haley Cox