Speaking out

After Ralph Nader’s Sept. 24 visit to UW-Eau Claire, senior Heather Williams was inspired by the speaker’s words that encouraged students to use their powerful voice toward change for the better.

“I was incredibly moved by Ralph Nader’s speech this fall and made a promise to myself that I would not simply complain about things that I thought were wrong” said Williams, an elementary education major. “Instead I would do something about it.”

Due to her inspiration, Williams has started a “mini” crusade over the past few weeks to make some changes to the education program.

Proving she is serious about her intentions, Williams has organized a meeting with faculty and staff from the School of Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Interested students will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Oneida Room of Davies to discuss the frustrations she sees.

Williams has also collected more than 100 signatures of education students in support of changing the admissions process.

“It is always easy to complain about something,” Williams said, “but as some of us are learning, it is just as easy to do something about it.”

The main frustration she sees is with the current admissions process. She said the School of Education turns down dozens of qualified applicants each semester.

“From day one I have stated my opposition to the application process at the School of Education,” Williams said. “It was my denial to the program that gave me that extra push to make my opinion loud and clear.”

Williams feels the problem is a result of budget cuts within the department and an unacceptable evaluation process for applying to the program.

While the department has been hit by budget cuts, Sue Mc Intyre, chair of Curriculum and Instruction, said that has not affected the number of seats in the School of Education.

The program previously had 100 seats, but was changed to 56 seats in 1994, along with the other 32 institutions throughout the state that produce elementary teachers.

“The teacher supply and demand in Wisconsin does not merit putting that many people in the job market,” Mc Intyre said.

She also noted that while there is a teacher shortage in the state, it is not in elementary education.

“Everyone wants to get in, but at some point they are not going to be admitted,” Mc Intyre said. “which is always bad news.”

Mc Intyre said the denial rate is higher or lower than the 30 percent, depending on the semester.

Ninety-nine students applied for the 56 seats in the spring of 2000, while 86 students applied for Fall 2003.

Of the 30 percent of applicants who do not get in, 80 percent are successful in their second application, Mc Intyre said.

Applicants can only apply for admission to the School of Education twice.

After talking with other education students, Williams discovered many of them feel the same way she does. She welcomes anyone interested to attend Tuesday’s meeting.

“Up to this point I don’t feel that the School of Education is really taking this seriously,” Williams said. “I think that they see me as just another angry student who was denied admission. However, I am quite the contrary, and I am not alone.”