Until yesterday, Stephen Jacobs, a surgeon and professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, had taken part in exactly one protest in his life: a 1967 rally on the University of California at Berkeley campus against the Vietnam War.
More than 35 years later, with his country involved in another war, Jacobs was at it again -- this time outside the State House in Annapolis. But Jacobs's sense of indignation was prompted by an event closer to home: proposed funding cuts to higher education in Maryland.
"This is the biggest threat to education I've seen in the state," Jacobs said.
Jacobs joined about three dozen members of Maryland's Council of University System Faculty, who held yesterday's rally to protest what they say will amount to $105 million in budget cuts to higher education. Faculty members maintained that the cuts would affect students in grades kindergarten through 12, too -- not just through the quality of state colleges available to them, but eventually the caliber of state-educated teachers who end up at local schools.
"You're cutting your future," said Vincent Brannigan, a professor at the University of Maryland in College Park, who paraded about in an academic gown he had kept from his Georgetown University graduation.
The faculty members issued a position paper stating that ongoing cuts had led to larger classes, increases in tuition and the "elimination of important student services."
The 13-college University System of Maryland faced midyear cuts totaling nearly 8 percent, which led to a 5 percent tuition surcharge for the spring and furloughs of campus employees.
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) proposed a freeze for next year's higher education budget, and the House of Delegates approved a budget that could take another $37 million out of college funding.
"We're going to cancel programs next at Salisbury," said David L. Parker, chairman of the Mathematics and Computer Science Department at Salisbury University on the Eastern Shore.
Erin McKenzie, a 21-year-old junior and history major at Salisbury, said she was concerned that "if the cuts are deep enough, they could affect our academics program."
Her school, she said, had an anthropology department with a single faculty position.
"That might be one that's taken," she said.
The rally was a relatively genteel affair, as a portable public-address system allowed faculty members to make their arguments without raising their voices.
The protests signs were polite and puny -- one read "Hire Education" -- and there was little invective in the speeches.
Instead, participants made their points with reason and considered analogies: Jacobs, for instance, explained how insufficient funding could cause an exodus of top professors.
"The stars leave," Jacobs said.
"Like the Orioles."