AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – Massachusetts Teachers Associates and activists held a standout Wednesday evening, calling on the state to protect public higher education.

Legislators are preparing to level fund public colleges and universities in the fiscal 2021 budget. Advocates rallied in Amherst to send a message to campus and state government leaders. Public higher education must be defended and the funding exists to do that.

Community colleges, state universities, and University of Massachusetts campuses have seen damaging cuts since the start of the pandemic.

“We are here asking the university to bring everyone back,” said Eve Weinbaum, president of Massachusetts Society of Professors. “To end the furloughs, to commit to no furloughs, no layoffs after January 1st. And to make sure everyone gets back to work, taking care of the students, taking care of the campus, and doing all the research and teaching that makes the university great.”

Wednesday’s gathering was one of several protests happening, all advocating to bring staff back to college campuses.