Protesters rally against proposed cuts

Community, campus leaders speak against UW System cut

Nate Beck


Photo by Ryan Alme

University and community members protested proposed UW System budget cuts Friday afternoon.

Story by Words by Nate Beck and Photos by Ryan Alme

A flock of UW-Eau Claire students, employees and community members gathered in the campus mall Friday afternoon to protest proposed cuts to the UW System in the next state budget.

The rally, organized by Eau Claire College Democrats, drew a swarm of people toting billboards in below-freezing weather.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker released a plan, Feb. 3, to cut $300 million in state funding from the UW System over the next two years.

Walker’s proposal would also deem the UW System a “public authority” — allowing the UW System Board of Regents more oversight over tuition rates among other powers.

Dustin Zebro, senior environmental public health major, stood to watch state Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire, Eau Claire City Council Member Andrew Werthmann and other address the shivering crowd of protesters.

Because only three Eau Claire professors teach environmental public health, Zebro said he’s worried the university will cut the program to compensate for fewer state funds.

“If I have a degree from a program that doesn’t exist anymore, that would be trouble,” he said.

Eau Claire will likely absorb a $7.5 million state funding cut if the 2015-17 biennial budget passes unaltered this summer.

Following speeches and a jaunt across campus, protesters swarmed inside the Davies Center. College Democrats corralled protesters to the third floor to write letters urging lawmakers to oppose the plan.

Anna Schwanebeck, of College Democrats, said the group had collected about 30 hand-written letters from protesters by 2 p.m. Friday, and another 300 postcards during letter drives in the days leading up to the rally.

“I’m impressed with how many we’ve gotten,” she said. “Interacting with legislators is the best way to make sure we don’t get these cuts.”