Students organized on opposing ends of State Street, in Bascom Hall and the Capitol to advocate for equally polarized viewpoints of the New Badger Partnership on Tuesday.
Nearly 100 University of Wisconsin students hosted a rally against the proposal — which would make UW independent from the UW System — at the main administration building, Bascom Hall. The rally culminated in an impromptu meeting with Chancellor Biddy Martin, while members of a student organization advocated in favor of the plan by meeting with legislators at the Capitol.
The rally on Bascom, which centered around a mock “auction” of the university to corporate interests, aimed to voice discontent with the model for public authority status and the proposed separation from the UW System to members of the administration.
Members of Student Labor Action Coalition, Teaching Assistants’ Association and UW faculty and staff joined student speakers on the top of the hill before marching to Chancellor Biddy Martin’s office with a list of demands.
Ben Manski, a local activist and executive director of the Liberty Tree Foundation, said Martin’s proposal is the first of its kind in the history of the university to align itself with the interests of big business.
He also said if Martin will not back down from the plan, she is unfit to continue serving as the leader of the university.
“It is not a proposal for public authority status; it is a proposal for corporate authority status,” said Manski, who received 30 percent of the vote in a state Assembly race as a Green Party candidate last fall. “If she cannot step back, then she needs to resign.”
UW professor Sara Goldrick-Rab also addressed the crowd, saying New Badger Partnership is not a means of enhancing affordability for students on campus.
She characterized the Partnership as a plan for institutional efficiency and a business model for education, a proposal that is at odds with the goals of the university.
No provisions in the proposed legislation tie financial aid to tuition increases, she said.
“Enhancing affordability means reducing net price. This is not about affordability,” Goldrick-Rab said. “It’s time to say enough. This is not what UW was created to do.”
After about 15 minutes of demanding a meeting with the chancellor and the appearance of six UWPD officers, Martin appeared in the corridor outside her office to address the students’ concerns.
In response to a student questioning whether Martin has the authority to take a stand in opposing any cuts to higher education at the state level, she said the current proposal offers an unprecedented opportunity for more responsible autonomy for UW.
After students charged that Martin had not fought cuts before the budget announcement, Martin also said she has advocated tirelessly for higher education over the course of the last 18 months.
“To say I haven’t used my platform to make the case for why there should be support for this university and other public universities is simply wrong,” she said. “We can simply absorb more cuts and do nothing but get demoralized by them, or we can seize an opportunity which is probably once in a lifetime.”
Demonstrators continued to occupy the building until around 7 p.m., when Dean of Students Lori Berquam told students the building was closing and they would need to vacate the building. UW Police guarded every entrance of the building, and approximately 20 officers stood outside at Bascom Hall’s main entrance.
UW Police officers told the protesters they had 60 seconds to decide whether to leave or remain in the facility and face the possibility of arrest.
Sophomore Beth Huang said the students made the decision to leave together in a peaceful manner.
One mile away from Martin’s office, members of the Students for the New Badger Partnership spent the day visiting the offices of legislators at the Capitol to provide more information about public authority status and advocating access and affordability under the proposal.
Jon Alfuth, co-founder of the group, said around a dozen members were able to visit the offices of all 132 lawmakers and speak directly with six legislators who he said were very inquisitive about how policies could allow for increased access and affordability.
“You can stand and shout on Bascom Hill, but decision makers need to hear what the plan really means for UW,” he said. “We were able to put student faces to the support of the Partnership on campus.”
He added legislators had requested to hear directly from concerned students about issues of possible tuition increases and financial aid.Wisconsin WaveWisconsin WaveWisconsin Wave