Both the Student Government Association and the city of Stevens Point have officially taken a stance formally opposing Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget cuts to the University of Wisconsin System.
At the Feb. 16, Stevens Point Common Council meeting, city leaders expressed that UW-Stevens Point is more than an economic engine; it improves the quality of life and culture in the community. Though local government has no say in the final decision, members unanimously oppose the proposed cuts.
Mayor Gary Wescott said faculty have frequently sat on city committees and boards, actively engaging in the community while dedicating time to teaching and research.
“This would corrupt the intention of the whole UW System, not only UWSP,” said resident Kathy Dugan, who graduated from and taught at the university. “Not only is it important to prepare college students for future careers, it is equally important to develop their hearts and minds. With critical thinking skills, they can be better participants in a democratic society, elect better leaders and become leaders themselves.”
Charlie Greiber, SGA budget director; Ryan Kernosky, legislative affairs director; Leah Aeby, chief of staff; and Ryan Schwobe, caucus chair of the College of Letters and Science, went to the Capitol on Feb. 12, to learn more about the proposal and lobby for UWSP’s differential tuition package, the Pointer Partnership. Greiber said there was reception to this idea.
Although the segregated fees paid by students that go toward funding for student organizations are not being targeted in this state budget proposal, Greiber said the Segregated University Fee Allocation Committee is being strategic in the budgeting process. Student organization budgets should be released by next week.
He said there has recently been concern among students about cost containment measures.
“The halt on out-of-state travel will not affect student organizations,” Greiber said. “Spring break travel is still on. Travel for student research has also been defined as mission critical.”
Other university functions are delayed. The Office of the Registrar sent a campus-wide email stating that the posting of the timetable on myPoint will not be up until March 2, due to an extensive review process in light of the budget situation. SGA executives say this could slow down the advising process.
On Feb. 14, faculty, staff and community members spoke at an organized protest held at Library Mall in Madison.
“It was a very passionate, yet respectable protest I’d say,” said Jaya Nell Usry White, freshman BFA acting major. “I sure hope our voices were heard. I wish there had been more people there.”
White came to UWSP from South Carolina because of program opportunities and tuition.
“The theatre I took classes and performed at back home had major budget cuts the year before I left, and it impacted us greatly,” White said. “Now that it’s more than just my interest, I think it made me realize that education is so important to our society and taking money from one of the greatest public university systems in the U.S. is really a shame. I think that this kind of money should be invested in education because college is where we learn all we need to know about our chosen career.”
Liz Ehrler is a sophomore transfer student in the BFA acting program.
“I wanted to go down and protest because I believe that nothing can really be changed unless something is done to stop it,” Ehrler said. “Although I have no say in what the final decision is, I do have the right to tell my story and how it will be affected if the budget cut goes through.”
She thinks this event will spark more protests to come.
“I believe that the future of Wisconsin and the United States comes with our younger generation,” she said. “By cutting funding, it will take longer for me and my classmates to graduate because of the lack of staff and classes available. Yes, having tuition freeze has been nice because I’m paying for school myself, but having to already stay an extra year because of transferring and now thinking that I may need to spend more time in college scares me. Overall, I will do anything I can to make sure people know how to make a difference. Wisconsin’s moto is ‘Forward,’ and by taking funding from education, we will be taking many steps back.”
Junior American studies major Christina Luna said she rallied over the weekend because she believes in education no matter what program and would hate to see her classmates lose out on any opportunities.
The proposal has brought discussion into classroom across disciplines.
Dr. Brad Mapes-Martins, assistant professor of political science, has a background in political theory.
“A political theorist might ask something to the effect of what perception of the public good or of the public might inform the type of budget that Walker has brought forth,” Mapes-Martins said. “In recent years, you have two pretty starkly different perceptions of what the public good is and how strongly obligations hold between members of the public. In the state, the public good is not defined in the same way, and that’s one of the things that public debate is supposed to help us with.”
He said since a smaller portion of the general population directly benefits from higher education, using a libertarian argument, those obtaining this education would be expected to pay for said benefits. Over the past few years, he said there has been a great deal of partisan polarization that may perhaps be a manifestation of a lack of community. This suggests people identify more with party affiliation than with state citizenship.
SGA encourages students to ask questions and talk with peers and professors and also to attend upcoming open forums to stay informed and voice their opinions. There are two scheduled forums coming up:
- Feb. 19, 5 p.m., NFAC Room 221, hosted by Rep. Katrina Shankland.
- Feb. 23, 6 p.m., DUC Theater, hosted by SGA.
Students and other concerned citizens may also contact state legislators as well as the Joint Committee on Finance.
News and Environment Editor