The need for continuing, bipartisan support of the University of Wisconsin System was the main message at a rally outside the University Union late Wednesday afternoon (March 4).
A crowd of about 75 braved bitter cold — single-digit temperatures and 20-mph winds — to participate in the gathering organized by the campus chapter of the statewide group UW Students Against Education Cuts.
The rally’s organizer, Democracy and Justice Studies senior Paul Ahrens, chair of the Student Government Association’s Academic Affairs Committee, urged those attending to contact their legislators to let them know a $300 million, double-digit cut to the UW System two-year budget would be unacceptable.
Ahrens called the rally a “non-partisan event” and encouraged participants to make a positive and affirmative case for the University System rather than engage in emotional political attacks. That theme was echoed by the main speaker, UW-Green Bay alumnus and longtime Wisconsin State Senator Dave Hansen, Class of 1971.
Hansen described the difference college made in his own life. He spoke of difference-making UW research statewide, the System’s power as an economic engine, and the fact that, traditionally, the state’s universities have enjoyed broad public support and bipartisan legislative consensus.
Hansen noted that in previous years he had worked closely with Republican legislators from Northeastern Wisconsin — particularly State Sen. Rob Cowles, another UW-Green Bay grad, and former Assembly Speaker John Gard — to fund key growth initiatives for UW-Green Bay and public higher education.
He said he is hopeful that legislators will be persuaded to moderate the proposed reductions during their budget deliberations this spring.
Also speaking during the 30-minute gathering was recent UW-Green Bay graduate and former SGA president Heba Mohammad, who urged citizen involvement.
The crowd at the rally was about two-third students, with faculty and staff, alumni and community members on hand to show support. There was a strong turnout by local media covering the event.