ETHAN COSTELLO | email@example.com
Last May I had the pleasure of attending a student-led action directly outside the state capitol building in Madison. The fight against the budget cuts slashing through our school system brought students, teachers, administrators and university faculty together, despite the overcast skies and down-pouring rain. In our rally outside the capitol, student speakers stood their ground and defended public education for all. Afterwards, we marched into the capitol building to deliver our letter of demands to Gov. Scott Walker’s office. It’s been about 4 months and it’s clear our letter has not been answered.
This rally came after a series of events happening within a short period of time: the proposal of the system-wide campus merger, the weak
ening of shared governance which gives certain rights to student and faculty governing bodies and the blatant dismissal of student government by the UW System President. This last part refers to sometime last year when student government associations across the state put in formal requests to give input in the merger process since the agenda would directly affect students. President Ray Cross had some different ideas about shared governance, taking the stance that it is not their place. In a private email correspondence reported on early last year, Cross seemed intent on ignoring students’ rights. Although students were eventually granted a seat at the decision making table, no direct voting rights were granted to the student representatives.
So, where does that leave us? And why are we here in the first place with these funding cuts? The Board of Regents, nearly all with ties to big money interests and all appointed by Gov. Walker, claim to be addressing decreased enrollment across the UW System. A lack of enrollment apparently does not make for a good investment.
I have yet to see a study on why students are not enrolling, and I’m sure there are a number of reasons(if you have data, please email me). One of them is the growing cost of living compounded with the unreasonably high cost of tuition. Working young folk seeking to go to college can’t afford both, often having to rely on federal financial aid. Even with aid, many students struggle. Education should be free for all seeking it. Maybe if our state would fund education—and everyone knows the money was there all along in the arrival of Foxconn—we’d see enrollments rise once again. But here we are, dealing with the consequences of Wisconsin’s ruling class’s mistake: decreased funding to public education, yet again.
Each student needs to decide for themselves if this is how we should allow ourselves to be treated. If the decision-makers at the top can’t decide to respect us with proper funding, maybe we should respect ourselves enough to do something, say something, about it.
Ethan Costello is a senior majoring in communication, VP of No Victims Self Defense and Secretary of Students for a Democratic Society.