“Great job. Thank you very much for being here. You deserve a ton of credit. You should be under the tent, and we should be out there.”
That’s State Representative Gary Hebl addressing a crowd of students, teachers, and community members gathered outside the Capitol this afternoon — despite unfavorable weather — to demand more funding for all UW schools.
The rally is the latest in a series of demonstrations organized by students and alumni from UW-Stevens Point whose focus has grown beyond the local campus to encourage state legislators to support the entire UW-System.
“We are taking those steps towards what we want, and making sure our democracy is working,” Gigi Stahl, an English major and soon-to-be UW-Stevens Point graduate says, summarizing the rally’s broad aims. “We did our job by voting our people in, and now we are doing our job by holding them accountable to what they need to be doing. And we are doing our job to make sure if if they do not do that, we are going to replace them. Someone else is going to fill those seats. We are going to fill those seat. We’re going to come back and we’re going to make sure we get what we need, and that’s what this Reclaiming UW is all about.”
Several Democratic candidates for Governor, including Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, emphasized their commitment to make education a priority of their administration. Evers is also on the UW System board of regents.
“We can change this, we’re going to need people to do it, and we’re going to need lots of rain to make this happen, but we can do it,” Evers says, noting the late-morning downpour. “I can tell you, being on the Board of Regents, and the next thing I’ll be is the Governor of the State of Wisconsin, I cannot wait to start replacing those Board of Regents members. We can do this, so let’s make this happen.”
With representatives from Madison, Oshkosh, and Parkside standing in solidarity with their peers today, the students’ efforts are reaching individuals throughout the UW-System, including Oshkosh alum Ryan Hamann.
“Like a lot of the speakers here today said, ‘An injury to one is an injury to all.’ That’s a commonly-held refrain among radical groups. I think it’s true,” Hamann says after delivering the collective’s letter to Governor Scott Walker. “As I said earlier in my own comments, what happened at Superior and Stevens Point are beginning to happen at UW-Oshkosh, and if they’re doing it at UW-Oshkosh, the third largest institution in the state, it’s only logical to assume that this is a trend.”
While a committee at UW-Stevens Point originally had until May 2nd to offer a budget alternative that would address the school’s deficit without cutting majors, it has requested more time to make that proposal, which is now expected to be completed and presented to chancellor Bernie Patterson by August 1st.
Regardless of what such a proposal may contain, the demonstrations will likely continue as Stevens Point graduate and rally organizer Valerie Landowski encouraged attendees to return for a similar protest at the beginning of the fall semester.