Hundreds of students and faculty members gathered in Main Place this afternoon to protest Govenor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill.
For those who are unfamiliar with the plan, the budget repair bill is Walker’s plan to pay off Wisconsin’s deficit through the elimination of collective bargaining and by forcing state workers to contribute to their pensions. Walker believes that by cutting down union benefits, he will gather a substantial amount of revenue to offset Wisconsin’s current $137 million deficit. If the bill does not go through, he fears that taxes will have to increase and there will be significant cuts in pay and employment for all residents.
Protesters of the bill argue that they are taxpayers too, and that they have been unfairly marginalized by Walker and advertisements. Protesters also argue that by interfering with educators, nurses and other labor forces, the qualities of education, health care and other respective fields will suffer as a consequence. The bill is already effecting educational institutions as Racine public schools were closed today due to teacher absences.
This afternoon’s rally was organized by members of the Parkside Student Government and faculty members. The rally, otherwise known as the “UW-Parkside Student Walk-Out,” used Facebook and word of mouth to organize a protest in opposition to the bill. The walk-out was scheduled for noon. Some professors promoted their students to walk out of class to participate. After the crowd congregated in Main Place, professors such as Jay McRoy, Ed Conrad, Farida Khan and Paul Aceto all spoke in resistance to the bill. Faculty and students in attendance managed to maintain their passion while keeping the peace.
“How do they expect you all to get jobs when they cannot allow us to give you the education necessary for the jobs?” asked professor Farida Khan.
While educators insist that they did not go into their field for the salary, they admit that the proposed legislation would be detrimental to their families. Many faculty members and students shared stories of how they have been personally effected by current wages, and how inevitably crippling this bill will be for them and their families.
“I am the only member of my family to graduate college, and I am $25,000 in debt,” said Professor Paul Aceto.
“Scott Walker thinks that our teachers’ love of their jobs will keep them around. How does he expect love of their jobs to put food on their tables?” asked student Emily Mabie.
From freshman to non-traditional students, crowd members spoke out, covering topics ranging from the value of education to the well being of Parkside.
“I will tell you something I know, and that is that I do not know a lot about teaching, and I do not know a lot about English. That is why I am here at Parkside. I do know that the reason why I came to Parkside was to avoid loans. I came to Parkside to avoid turning the government’s debt into my personal debt,” said student Colin Flanigan.
The potential cut of collective bargaining outraged the protesters. Many insisted that collective bargaining establishes fundamental human rights, and many others were worried about the outlook of their futures.
“I am a mother, and I will be a grandmother in the next few years. This is not what I want my children and grandchildren to live through,” said non-traditional student Pattie Jensen.
Protesters kept the crowd up to date with Scott Walker and other politician’s tweets. One of the news feeds told the crowd that all 14 Democratic representatives had fled the state in protest. Another tweet told them that President Obama supported the unions, which evoked a roar of cheers from the crowd.
Shouting “Kill the Bill” and waving signs, the procession marched through Greenquist and Molinaro Halls to continue the protest on the Student Union staircase, where Jay McRoy announced his gratitude to all of the rally’s attendees and to the campus as a whole. After a few more speakers, the rally ended.
Those in support of Governor Walker’s bill and those in opposition can agree that something needs to be done to alleviate the deficit. If passed, the legislation will affect virtually every single Wisconsin resident. Those in opposition have done a lot to get their voices heard, but now must focus on offering alternatives to the bill, rather than just refuting it.
All citizens are encouraged to keep themselves informed and updated on the current legislative process in Madison. It is advised that everyone in support and opposition to Governor Walker’s bill makes their voices and opinions heard by contacting their legislatures through email, as the phone lines have been busy and voice mail boxes are said to be full.