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

Students don’t have a voice

Before this thing gets off the ground, I would first like to apologize to anyone who read my column in November about student’s apathetic approach to the Blugold Commitment. As we all have found out months later, if you didn’t voice your opinion on the matter, you probably saved yourself a lot of stress. For those who did, well, it didn’t matter anyway, did it?

Now that the Blugold Commitment has been approved by the UW System Board of Regents, any arguments against it or concerns that still remain are futile.

The worst part, however, is that they always were.

Following the Student Senate’s decision to completely disregard the student body’s opinion — despite whining all last fall about lack of student participation – and the chancellor’s strange and unfounded comments about student support for the plan, the question remains: Why would the Student Senate and administration campaign nonstop on the importance of student input if they didn’t care in the first place?

The answer is simple. Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich is smart; so are Student Senators.

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They knew that most students wouldn’t show up to open sessions to protest even if they didn’t like the tuition proposal, and they knew that as long as they could get enough votes in the Senate and get the plan to the Board of Regents, there would be nothing anyone could do about it. And here we are.

By telling students that they truly had a voice, a little bit of support for the plan was drummed up among those who were a bit more na’ve. For the rest of us, well . it didn’t really matter. Key people in the process made sure the Blugold Commitment passed, regardless of how anyone else felt about it from the very beginning.

Throughout last semester and even more recently, comments by the chancellor have indicated that he is either completely misinformed (unlikely) or is willing to say anything – no matter how nonsensical – simply because he can.

In a meeting with The Spectator late last fall, the chancellor was asked about student support and what would happen if students chose either not to support the commitment or just not to voice any opinion at all.

Without missing a beat, the chancellor informed us that he was extremely impressed with the activism and student support for the plan. Remember, this was at the time when senators and columnists like myself were berating students for not knowing anything or caring about the future of their campus. Also remember, not long after this conversation, a survey sent to the entire campus by Student Senate would show that more than 60 percent of the student’s who voted opposed the plan.

More recently, UW-Eau Claire was again ranked one of the top 100 best values in public education by Kipplinger’s magazine. Ironically enough, in the news release on the UW-Eau Claire site, Levin-Stankevich used the opportunity to talk about the Blugold Commitment and how important raising tuition is.

Even after the survey, the anger, the revote, the controversy and feelings of distrust with the Senate and administration, Levin-Stankevish said in the release, “It’s clear from our many discussions with students and from the actions of the Student Senate that students support the goals that we are trying to accomplish.”

I’m not sure what group of students Levin-Stankevich talked to, but it certainly wasn’t the ones who took the survey, it wasn’t the 1,100 kids that joined a Facebook group called “Students in favor of having their voices heard” and I’m guessing it wasn’t the kid that started a petition to remove Student Body President Michael Umhoefer and Vice President Amber Bretl

from office.

After attacks on his representation of the student body, Umhoefer has recently defended himself on the grounds that he kind of listened to the student body. The results of the survey sent out by Student Senate indicated that students didn’t support the plan. Nowhere did it indicate that $1,200 as a tuition increase was any more acceptable to some than $1,500. In the end, what Umhoefer is saying is that he decided he knew what was best for the students – even if they don’t know what’s good for them – and that because students never specifically said $1,200 wasn’t acceptable, that it would still fly. And it did.

The two biggest proponents of the plan had the most power to control its fate, and they made it happen.

The reality is that students never had a chance. We now need to realize that at UW-Eau Claire we have little to no say – as the students who make this university what it is, through spirit and certainly through funding – in the important decisions that will ultimately affect our entire college experience.

The scariest part is that the Blugold Commitment was advertised as a plan that would allow students to decide how the university spends most of that extra money. Since we now know that Student Senate, which exists solely to reflect our opinions, fails to do so – who will actually be making the decisions of where the Commitment money will go? The students definitely won’t be.

Hanson is a senior print journalism major and chief copy editor for The Spectator.

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Students don’t have a voice