Budget cuts spur UW-Eau Claire open discussion

UW System budget teach-in brings students, faculty and alumni together

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Budget cuts spur UW-Eau Claire open discussion

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UW-Eau Claire students, faculty and alumni came together to talk about the future of the university after already feeling the effects of the $250 million budget cut to the University of Wisconsin System.

Progressive Students and Alumni, along with the UW-Eau Claire College Democrats and the United Faculty and Academic Staff of UW-Eau Claire, hosted a teach-in session on the UW budget crisis and the future of UW-Eau Claire Thursday in Centennial Hall.

The purpose of the teach-in was to provide a participatory public forum and to discuss possible solutions to face the looming debt over the UW System.

“We could really use some perspective on the future in regards to what is going on in the state budget,” Jeremy Gragert, Progressive Students and Alumni member and primary organizer of the teach-in, said.

Gragert graduated from Eau Claire in 2005 and played an active role in founding the Progressive Students and Alumni Association in 2003, when he organized a similar teach-in about the United States’ conflict in Iraq. He said it’s important to have the connection between students and alumni at a time when students face losing the same resources alumni had.

“I’m still benefitting from the fact that I got my undergraduate degree from here and I feel that part of my personal responsibility as a citizen is to protect that,” Gragert said. “That opportunity for others in the future.”

Max Garland, an Eau Claire English professor and Wisconsin’s Poet Laureate from 2013-14, was the keynote speaker at the teach-in. He told the crowd of about 60 people his story — growing up in a small trailer in rural Kentucky with parents who never finished high school.

Garland said his odds of obtaining a higher education were not bad because someone gave him a ladder.

“It’s ironic and extremely sad,” he said, “that many of the legislators who were actually given that ladder have pulled it up after them or dismantled it rung by rung for kindling for the fires of personal ambition.”

English professor and Vice President of United Faculty and Academic Staff of UW-Eau Claire, Robert Nolan, shared a similar sentiment during his speech about the state of the UW System.

“We have lost and are losing the knowledge, experience, dedication and talent of approaching 200 colleagues,” Nolan said. “People who have worked long and hard to make UW-Eau Claire the best it is and has been.”

Allison Wagener is a junior English education major and the Student Senate Director of Academic Affairs at UW-Eau Claire. She said she has already noticed the effects of the budget cuts this semester, noting the larger class sizes and fewer class sections available during the roundtable discussion portion of the teach-in.

“We put in quite a lot into our education, Wagener said. “We’ve dedicated four years of our lives to this institution so it’s pretty important that we understand how it works and understand how the things that are happening in Madison will be affecting those four years.”

UW-Eau Claire faces a $12.2 million reduction each year until 2017.

“We are making a cut back to substantially reduce the array of resources and opportunities we offer our students, communities and our state,” Nolan said.

Gragert said while there isn’t another teach-in scheduled at this time, Progressive Students and Alumni will be hosting more as UW-Eau Claire heads into the 2016-17 fiscal years.

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