“No ifs, no buts, no education cuts!” was one of the comments roared by over 100 protesters of Gov. Scott Walker’s budget cut proposal for the UW system. They marched with homemade signs in the frigid temperatures from the Union to the front of Mitchell Hall at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 4.
State lawmakers addressed students. Rep. Jonathan Brostoff (D-Milwaukee) thanked UWM for “the world class education” he received. He also touched upon the story of the evening – the controversy about, as he put it, how Walker allegedly wants to “kill the Wisconsin Idea.”
The Wisconsin Idea is a century old policy that says the duty of the UW System is for its students to be able to exceed at problem solving skills for the state’s workforce needs and to extend students’ knowledge beyond the boundaries of campus. Earlier on Wednesday, media reported that Walker’s budget included revisions to the UW mission statement, removing portions of the policy that reflect the Wisconsin Idea like “to extend knowledge and its application beyond the boundaries of its campus” and “basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth.”
Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick later said that it was a “drafting error” merely hours later in a statement reported by many media. On Thursday, Walker released a lengthy statement blaming the revisions on subordinates. In the Thursday statement, Walker said, “Clearly, changing the Wisconsin Idea serves no purpose. That is why I made it clear on Wednesday that we would not change it in the budget. It is not a change of heart. It was a simple miscommunication during the natural back and forth of this process. “
The legislators had strong words for the governor on campus Wednesday.
“Just because Scott Walker couldn’t graduate doesn’t mean you shouldn’t graduate,” Brostoff said.
“I’m mad about the governor putting politics over students’ education,” Rep. Mandela Barnes (D-Milwaukee) told the rally in an annoyed manner. “Scott Walker is not concerned with the state of Wisconsin; he’s only concerned about Scott Walker.” He compared Walker to Gov. Dayton in Minnesota who in juxtaposition to Walker wants to actually increase funding to education, he said.
The proposal calls for $300 million to be cut from the UW budget over the next two years if the bill passes. That is equal to the budgets of School of Public Health, the School of Freshwater Science, and half of Peck School of the Arts combined, UWM officials have said previously. In three months, UW-Milwaukee could face layoffs, building closures, or a slowdown of admission of the new freshman class. This cut would be the largest in history for the UW System. The plan goes to the Legislature next.
According to the bill, Walker will continue with the tuition freeze for another two years. In his 2015 address, Walker said, “As the father of a UW student, I have a real interest in the success of our state system and I believe this will make the University of Wisconsin stronger in the years to come.”
There was high energy in the air as President of the Student Association Ryan Sorenson spoke to the crowd about how much he loved the school, citing that UW-Milwaukee has the most diverse student population, the most veterans, and is one of the top LGBT friendly campuses in the country.
“This cut will have a direct effect on your education whether it be a class that is cut, your favorite professor laid off, or your favorite student organization that won’t get funding anymore,” he told the crowd.
Senior graphic design and Spanish major, John Koerner marched in the rally and is incredibly concerned about the future of UWM.
“It’s scary that the government is putting less and less effort into our education which is really important to me,” he said.
He’s been given many opportunities from UWM which he wouldn’t have been able to have without attending. One of which is an internship in which he 3d printed prosthetic hands for kids who lost their hands in accidents or had amniotic band syndrome in which they’re simply not born with them.
Freshman Political Science major, Masha Anderson, the organizer of the protest and chair of the College Democrats at UWM, finds that regardless of political affiliation, students will be affected if this bill passes.
“We all need education no matter what you do to build a better future,” she said.
The College Republicans of UWM declined to comment about the protest.
Freshman Abby Zwicke, whose major is currently undecided, says, “Of all things to cut, why education?” She said that she always yearned to go to UW-Milwaukee but fears the variety of classes and choices of majors will dwindle. For example, she’s enrolled in an Italian class which she enjoys and wants to continue, however; she fears that it will be cut because it isn’t as popular a language as Spanish.
One of the main reasons she decided to attend this university is because of the variety of classes it currently offers, yet she is fearful that that variety will vastly decline since she feels one of the only ways the university will be able to keep up with the budget cuts will be to terminate certain classes.