Students rally, protest

Sen. Mitch McConnell was greeted by more than just university staff when he visited campus Jan. 16 – several students had also showed up to protest the Iraq war.

McConnell, who has consistently voted in favor of the war, stopped by Northern Kentucky University to hand over more than $816,000 he had secured for a College of Informatics program and the Infrastructure Management Institute.

According to junior political science major and protester Dennis Chaney, the issue wasn’t the new funding NKU was receiving, but how much more NKU could receive if America wasn’t in Iraq.

“The amount he brought here was three minutes of the Iraq war,” Chaney said. He had begun organizing the protest around nine the night before after seeing a news release on NKU’s homepage.

The protestors weren’t permitted to enter the Welcome Center room where McConnell spoke. Instead, they stood in the hallway, holding signs demanding an exit from Iraq.

Student Government President Alyse Bender and Senator Mike Tobergta both said it seemed like a good compromise that allowed McConnell to both deliver his speech and hear the protesters’ message.

“We couldn’t have people shouting,” Bender said.

University President James Votruba noted that McConnell’s security was another concern.

“These could be students protesting or they could want to get more aggressive,” he said. “You never know.”

Nevertheless, he approved of how University Police handled the situation, and complimented the protesting students.

“Universities have always been where young people protest,” he said. “I’m glad to see students engaged.”

McConnell did not confront the protestors and Votruba said he understood why.

“That would not have been a conversation,” he said. “That was a protest.”

The money McConnell obtained for NKU will fund an Informatics project to enhance internet security, specifically intrusion detection. McConnell said that the project will help bolster jobs and businesses in the region.

The funds will also finance the Infrastructure Management Institute, which seeks to create more high-tech jobs and encourage internet entrepreneurs in the Northern Kentucky area.

“These marvelous businesses can go somewhere else or we can bring them here,” McConnell said, noting the need for more high-tech specialists proficient in math and science.

Votruba praised McConnell’s leadership in helping NKU target the e-market, noting that without the funds, NKU wouldn’t have been able to create the programs.

“We all know there’s no aspect in the humanities, sciences or arts not touched by digital technology,” he said.

The money, however, will not help NKU face down the $1.6 million it is losing from Kentucky’s legislature.

Nevertheless, Votruba said without McConnell’s aid in getting federal grants, the programs would not have been possible.