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Cal U students, faculty gather during March for Science

| Thursday, April 20, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Dillon Carr | Tribune-Review
Students at California University of Pennsylvania prepare to walk during the school's March for Science event on Thursday, Aril 20, 2017
Dillon Carr | Tribune-Review
Students from California University of Pennsylvania's Geology Club and The Wildlife Society participate in the school's March for Science event on Thursday, April 20, 2017
Dillon Carr | Tribune-Review
A student from California University of Pennsylvania's Wildlife Society holds a sign reading, 'March for Science' during the school's event on Thursday, April 20, 2017

“It's not political.”

The words reverberated through some 50 students and faculty members at California University of Pennsylvania's March for Science event on Thursday. The event was held in conjunction with events planned in Washington, D.C., and other cities across the nation on Earth Day, which is Saturday.

The event was not held as a response to recent political actions, said Christine Kindl, a university spokeswoman.

“It's (Cal U's march) a statement on the future of our university,” Kindl said.

President Donald Trump's proposed budget, released in March, includes a $2.6 billion spending slash to the Environmental Protection Agency. The cut represents a third of the agency's budget and has been widely criticized because it would eliminate billions of dollars for scientific research programs.

In February, university President Geraldine Jones delivered a speech during spring convocation, pledging to “re-engineer Cal U for a new generation” and renewed its message on science and technology, which involves recruiting more students for science and technology-related degrees. The university has 20 to 40 science and technology degrees.

“Students in any field need a good grip on science and technology. We're dedicated to creating the best science teachers we can offer,” Kindl said, adding the school is also working to recruit more students interested in pursuing science and technology careers.

Students wore shirts displaying NASA, Charles Darwin and other science-related topics. Some held signs that read “Steminist,” “We love Science” and “Make Earth Cool Again.”

Alex Cheek, 23, a junior pursuing a geology degree, was in charge of making the signs. What inspired her to create the “Make Earth Cool Again” sign, she said, was the global warming movement.

The university's Geology Club spearheaded the event.

“This is important in a university setting,” said club President James Bader, 22, a junior geology major. “Science plays a huge role in my life, but it plays a huge role in all our lives.”

Thursday's event was the university's first science-related demonstration, said Dr. Kyle Fredrick, professor in the department of earth sciences. The Geology Club adviser, he approached the club with the idea for the march.

“We don't see a lot of things like this on the campus,” Fredrick said. “We need to embrace our place in the region and nationally. It's important to prepare them (students) about the perspectives on science that are nationally recognized.”

Fredrick said the event was, in one sense, political.

“The science community, whether you're conservative, liberal or whatever, feels a direct threat to the good work that we do. If you are a scientist, or if your job relies heavy on science, then the decisions made politically will have a significant impact on your life – whether it be through funding or attitude. It's important,” he said.

But the march was meant to inspire more young people to pursue a career in science and see Cal U as an option to help them get there.

When the students finished their half-mile march from Duda Hall to the Convocation Center, Fredrick thanked students and encouraged them to attend March for Science events on Saturday at the University of Pittsburgh or Washington, D.C.

“Stay active, stay vocal – no one else is going to speak for you,” he said.

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at dcarr@tribweb.com or 724-850-1298.

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