*Edited at 9 p.m.
The first of multiple protests planned on campus broke loose in Spaights Plaza and the student Union today in light of the proposed $300 million budget cut to the UW System.
The Progressive Students of Milwaukee, members of local labor unions, and passionate students gathered in the outdoor plaza holding signs and chanting messages like “they say cut back, we say fight back.”
“We want to make a big bold statement against these attacks on public education in Wisconsin,” President of Progressive students of Milwaukee Andy Urban said.
The nearly 200 students took the protest through an unplanned trip into the Union first floor, down the stairs and onto the ground floor Union Concourse. The march disrupted a study abroad fair but did not create any safety issues according to Associate Union Director Mike Schmit.
Students in the Union were taken by surprise by the large demonstration. Some cheered along, but some disagree with the protester’s message.
“I think UWM is full of a lot of ill-informed people who don’t read enough into the news to understand what they’re protesting,” business student Connor Chadwick said. “You have to see, some cuts have to be made for the greater good and longevity and prosperity, because without that you’re just going to have a failing system.”
But Urban thinks that opposing the proposal is simply “common sense.”
“I think all Wisconsin students should oppose this plan,” Urban said.
Among other protesters was Oscar Hernandez. He’s a junior at UWM and President of Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES). He attended the protest to represent the multicultural social justice organization. He labeled the possibility of the budget cuts as an “emergency”, especially for immigrant students.
“Undocumented students, immigrants — they will have to pay more out of pocket. They cannot pay in-state tuition already,” said Hernandez.
Among other groups represented at the demonstration were Progressive Students of Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Graduate Assistants Association.
Student Government Vice President of Student Affairs Evan Braun attended the protest, and also encourages students to join in.
“Just write to your legislature as much as you can, and get the word out as much as possible,” Braun said.
Not everyone came with a title, however. Eddy Chapman is a UWM alumnus. Sporting a modest cardboard sign reading “S.O.S., Save Our UW-System”, Chapman joined the march as it entered the Union to protest the budget.
“It hurts people who need it the most: working-class people, people of color, people from marginalized communities,” said Chapman. With that, the alumnus recommended that out-of-state students considering an education look elsewhere for their college education.
“If you’re coming from out of state, Wisconsin is not a great place right now.”
Joey Kilmer, a Ph.D. student at UWM, attended the protests as well. He admits that the cuts proposed in Walker’s budget could soon be very real.
“To be honest, I think it’s entirely possible,” Kilmer said.
Later today another set of protests are scheduled at 5 p.m. These protests were organized by the College Democrats at UW-Milwaukee, along with the support of the Student Association at UW-Milwaukee. State representatives Jonathan Brostoff (D-Milwaukee), Mandela Barnes (D-Milwaukee) and David Bowen (D-Milwaukee) plan to attend. According to organizers, this is the first of multiple protests scheduled throughout UW campuses state-wide, through the organization of the College Democrats of Wisconsin.
Gov. Walker gave his 2015-2017 budget address on Tuesday. During that speech, he mentioned that he plans to offer UW System schools more autonomy as he pulls away 300 million dollars over two years. Meanwhile, the tuition freeze would remain in effect.
The proposed budget pends approval from state legislature.