The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Statewide protest sparked by budget

A statewide effort to protest what some students believe is a lack of funding for the UW schools in next year’s budget started Friday.

A crowd that fluctuated from 20 to 50 students gathered in the Locust Lounge of Davies Center to protest the proposed budget released by Gov. Scott McCallum on Feb. 20.

Rallies also took place at 11 other UW campuses, including River Falls, Milwaukee, La Crosse and Madison.

The budget includes a 1.6 percent increase in money for UW schools after a 3.6 percent increase was requested by the Board of Regents.

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In the budget requested by the Board of Regents, increased funding was requested for financial aid, academic advising, a campus safety initiative, more funding for libraries and for Plan 2008, a statewide diversity initiative.

Only advising was given more funds, said Bill Keeton, academic affairs director of United Council and a recent UW-Eau Claire graduate.

“This lack of funding will not only slam the door of opportunity for many current and prospective students, but it will lessen the quality of the degrees we receive,” Keeton said.

Student tuition could increase 6 to 10 percent without support from the state, said Sarah Schuh, intergovernmental affairs director of Student Senate.

“I don’t want to get cheated as a student,” said junior Layla Frey, who wanted more people to be aware of the budget and take action.

Diversity programs also were short-changed, sophomore Jesse Okiror said.

“It appears that initiatives designed to promote diversity here at UW-Eau Claire as well as across the System are not important to Governor McCallum,” Okiror said.

Plan 2008, an initiative to increase recruitment and retention of minority students, did not receive increased funding.

Twenty-two new positions and $2 million were requested in the budget to strengthen advising, said Andy Oettinger, academic affairs director of Senate. The proposed budget provides less than half the request and is funded using only tuition dollars, he added.

“This type of funding sends the message to us as students that not graduating in a timely manner is entirely our fault,” Oettinger said.

Friday’s rallies are only the beginning, though, said Kelly Witkowski, secretary of Senate. Other actions are planned throughout the state to draw attention to the budget.

She said she hopes legislators will get the message that students won’t put up with being taken advantage of and that protests will be successful.

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Statewide protest sparked by budget