Photos by Ariele Vaccaro and Jordyn Noennig
Over 100 people gathered late today in the second eruption of protests against the $300 million budget cut against the UW System. Among the protesters were state representatives, professors, student government leaders, teacher assistants and students.
Before protests started today, Gov. Walker introduced new writing to the century old ‘Wisconsin Idea’ that says that the state will fund universities, as long as the universities disseminate knowledge useful to the state.
Professor Lane Hall, who attended the protest, said he could not believe some of the things Walker removed from the wording.
Hall also said the UW System has not been pulling its weight in representing the universities across the state.
“Represent education, represent us,” Hall said. “Don’t capitulate so fast to a legislature that doesn’t seem to care about this system. This system isn’t broken.”
Rep. Jonathan Brostoff (D-Milwaukee) and Rep. Mandela Barnes (D-Milwaukee) each gave a speech, saying that they think the cuts are detrimental to that state and the school system.
“This system is one of the best things we have in our state right now; it is a gem and a jewel,” Brostoff said. “We don’t want to take that jewel down to the pawn shop, get our few bucks and pennies on the dollar for it and walk away.”
“These are our lives that are being primarily affected by Gov. Walker’s failed decisions to further his own political career,” Barnes said.
The state is facing a $2 billion deficit, and the legislators agree that funding can be taken from elsewhere, and not the UW System.
“We’re giving away too much money in tax breaks,” Barnes said.
While Brostoff thinks we are spending $500 million too much on state highways.
Brostoff also said that the UW System is a good investment for the state, as it contributes more than $15 billion in economic activity each year as reported in the UW System’s 2013-2014 fact book
“I don’t think people realize that the state put in $1.2 billion, “ Brostoff said. “But we’re getting more than a $13 billion return on investments.”
Students organize to have their voices heard
Student Jill Hoffman was the ringleader in putting together the day’s protest. She is not part of any organizations that participated or organized; she simply felt she could be the person to start a movement against the budget cuts.
Hoffman said it started when she shared a story on social media about the budget cuts, saying UWM needed to do something about it and heed a call to activism.
“Someone called me out on it and said ‘what are you going to do about this,’” Hoffman said. “So in my pajamas with my coffee I was like, ‘you know what, I can’t just talk about it, I need to do something.'”
She organized a night for students and faculty to get together and organize against the budget proposal. During the meeting, students decided to host two separate protests planned for the day after Walker officially laid out his budget plan for FY 2015-2017.
The Progressive Students of Milwaukee spearheaded the noon protest, while the College Dems at UWM organized the 5 p.m. protest, both today.
“I’m just hoping we get the message out. The big thing is supporting that this is a student issue,” College Dems at UWM Chairwoman Masha Anderson said. “It’s not a republican issue, it’s not a democrat issue. It’s a student issue.”
College Democrats at UW-Milwaukee said that the protests wentwell and believe that their message will resonate.
“Scott Walker thinks he can pick on college students because he thinks we’re apathetic,” College Dem. Austin Kieler said. “I want to ask him did this look like an apathetic crowd? Because it didn’t to me.”