UW-Milwaukee students marched through campus Wednesday night in protest against Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget cuts. They huddled in front of Mitchell Hall to hear Wisconsin legislators Mandela Barnes and Jonathan Brostoff explain how the cuts could damage the UW System and Wisconsin.
“Our public university system is a gem,” said Brostoff. “And we don’t want to sell it off at the pawn shop. We don’t want Gov. Walker taking it down to the pawn shop so he can buy a few votes in Iowa for his presidential run.”
District 11 legislator Barnes focused on the local and national uproar that started Wednesday over Walker’s budget including a rewritten mission statement for UW, eliminating the Wisconsin Idea language in it.
“What Gov. Walker is proposing to do to the state of Wisconsin; don’t think he won’t do it to the rest of this country,” said Barnes.
On Wednesday, Walker tweeted that the rewritten mission statement was a drafting error. On Thursday, he released a lengthy statement that instead blamed the rewriting on underlings.
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 Wednesday speeches and protests erupted at UWM in the wake of the proposed $300 million budget cut Walker proposed for the UW school system, $20 million of which could come from UW-Milwaukee the first year alone. This budget cut has been seen as unprecedented and could result in UW faculty and staff job losses, raised in tuition prices, and programs/courses being eliminated from curriculum, according to faculty on a top committee at UWM.
While chanting, “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts,” students held up their protest signs that they made earlier in the day in the UWM Union.
There were an estimated 100 students in attendance to create unique signs in the Wisconsin room at 4 p.m.
While writing a letter to Scott Walker, David Hohenstein, a painting and drawing major in his senior year, expressed his concern about tuition hikes and losing the resources UWM offers to students.
“I just fear for the future of Wisconsin, the future of America… Milwaukee especially could teeter off into an abyss, and I have to wonder if that’s Scott Walker’s plan.”
English Professor Lane Hall is worried that the university will become more of a “vocational enterprise,” with the arts and humanities at more of a risk.
“I think there will be fewer classes offered because there will be caps, like you won’t be able to offer a class unless you get 30 students in it or whatever,” said Hall. “So programs that are already hard to get through in four years will be more likely to be five or six year programs, and the state doesn’t want to talk about this. They make it sound like, ‘oh that’s the fault of the faculty,’ or, ‘that’s the fault of an inefficient system,’ but not, that’s the fault of not having enough resources.”
Student Association President, Ryan Sorenson, spoke to the sign makers before they left to march. He put the $300 million budget cut’s scope into perspective.
“If they allocate the numbers as they have in the past, that would mean $40 million cut from UW-Milwaukee alone,” said Sorenson, “That is the operating budget for the Lubar School of Business. So how do we manage the cuts? We just close down one of our schools? The second most populated school in UW-Milwaukee?”
Many of the protesters who were making signs for the marches on campus were at a rally that was held in Spaights Plaza earlier at noon.