Thursday, July 09, 2015

Conservative voice drown out on UW-Madison campus

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Watchdog

MADISON, Wisconsin — When administrators at the University of Wisconsin-Madison held their sky-is-falling hearings earlier this year on proposed budget cuts, it was no easy feat for young conservatives to make their voices heard through the din of left-wing passion at one of the most liberal campuses in the country.

But the College Republicans of UW-Madison turned out attempting to remind their left-leaning peers and professors that Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal came with another two-year tuition freeze.

You would think the university’s student government would be jumping for joy at the possibility of holding the line on the exploding cost of higher education. The average UW-Madison undergraduate degree carries a debt load of $27,711, according to the university.

Anthony Birch, chairman of the College Republicans of UW-Madison, said Walker’s tuition freeze proposal, just like the one enacted two years before, was met with silence from the Associated Students of Madison.

“We had a member testify from our organization saying, ‘You claim to be a nonpartisan student advocacy group, but when something comes along that was maybe proposed by someone with an ‘R’ next to their name instead of a ‘D’ and is actually good for students and freezes the cost of college and is actually making an impact on my pocketbook and everybody else’s pocketbook in the state you say nothing,’” Birch told Wisconsin Watchdog on the Vicki McKenna Show on NewsTalk 1130 WISN in Milwaukee on Tuesday.

“That’s what we’re dealing with from an organization that claims to be the student voice but not necessarily is,” the student GOP leader added.

ASM, of course, was concerned with Walker’s original plan to trim $300 million out of the University of Wisconsin System budget, a reduction that has since been scaled back to $250 million by the Legislature’s Republican-led budget-writing committee.

Omitted from the student government’s talking points, however, were the hundreds of millions of dollars in cash balances the system failed to fully disclose. The money was found through the scrutiny of the Legislature’s CPA caucus, a group of Republican lawmakers who come from an accounting background.

These days, as the Republican-led budget process closes, ASM is sending urgent appeals to students asking them to “Call or email the governor to ask him to preserve students’ rights to self-governance with his veto pen.”

Wisconsin is one of the few states that codifies shared governance and faculty tenure directly into state law. That changes under the budget bill.

Students and faculty will still have a say, at least in an advisory capacity, but proponents of the limitations assert the decisions that impact taxpayers should be in the hands of university administrators.

ASM does make an interesting point. Student fees are essentially a tax. Taking away a students’ right to vote for the people who set those fees, the organization argues, is like “taxation without representation.”

Not everyone agrees with the student government’s positions. Birch said that makes little difference on a campus where the left is always right.

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