On February 16, members of the Stout Student Association (SSA) made the three-hour drive to Madison, Wis., to meet with other student representatives from the University of Wisconsin System and voice their opinions to Wisconsin representatives and senators on the recent budget proposal. These students included: SSA Vice President Gunther Melander, Director of Financial Affairs Stephanie Zengler, Director of Communications Kate Travis and the representative of the college of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Erik Pearl.
In addition to Stout representation, students from all over the UW System came to speak for their campuses. Students from University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, University of Wisconsin–La Crosse, University of Wisconsin–River Falls, University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire and University of Wisconsin–Madison joined the conversation at the capitol.
UW–Milwaukee Vice-President of student affairs, Trevor Jung, was among these representatives and was eager to share his goals for the day. “We are here to educate and to advocate for higher education. The most important thing we can do is just clear the air and have an open and honest conversation with both the Republican and Democratic staff,” Jung explained.
The students came prepared with a list of topics they thought were most important, the most significant one being the change in allocable fees that Governor Walker proposed in his recent budget. Allocable fees are part of tuition that cover a variety of different resources to students. At Stout, allocable fees attribute to funding Stout’s many organizations on campus. At campuses like UW–Milwaukee, however, they fund crucial transportation for students. The recent proposal that Governor Walker announced would allow students to opt-out of these allocable fees.
Vice President Gunther Melander explained why this would negatively impact Stout students. “Stout prides itself in being a polytechnic school and having such a high success rate for students after graduation. One of the ways we do this is creating connections and gaining hands-on experience outside of the classroom, through our organizations. If students were able to opt-out of these fees, we would all lose valuable funding necessary for our success,” he explained to multiple different elected-officials throughout the day.
Other topics of discussion included a revision of Walker’s proposal for a performance-based funding system, a request for a non-biased sexual violence resource at every UW campus and a request to have a student-elected, student-voice to join the UW System Board of Regents.
“Everyone I talked to was really receptive to what we were saying,” said Stephanie Zengler. “A lot of them had really great ideas on how we could adjust segregated fees, and some of them were just out-right supportive of what we were saying, which was super encouraging,” she said about the outcome of the day.
“It was good to hear so many people in our state government supportive of the work we are doing and our causes,” Erik Pearl reflected. “As students, it was great to hear both constructive criticism as well as those who are on our side that just want us to make sure our points are clear in order for us to achieve more,” he stated.
All of the student representatives were satisfied with the outcomes of their lobbying, and they were all in agreement that it would not be the last time they’d be speaking with our state representatives.