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UW System Students Hold Sit-In At Regents’ Office To Protest Campus Cuts

Campuses In Stevens Point, Superior Facing Loss Of Several Programs

UW students marching
Students and alumni from University of Wisconsin campuses march to the Board of Regents office for a sit in Wednesday. Marylee Williams/WPR

Students and alumni from University of Wisconsin campuses held a sit-in at the UW Board of Regents office Wednesday. They read 26 letters to UW System administrators, calling for more funding and pushing back against planned program cuts.

UW-Stevens Point has proposed cutting more than a dozen liberal arts majors. UW-Superior suspended 25 programs last fall.

Marlo Fields, a UW-Stevens Point graduate, helped organize the sit-in. Speaking at the Capitol before marching to the regents office, he said the tuition freezes and budget cuts are harming the state’s once strong university system.

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“UW-Superior was the first campus to manifest these cuts, and now it’s Stevens Point,” Fields said. “Tomorrow it will be Oshkosh, River Falls, Parkside, until the UW System is a barren shell of itself.”

Students from UW-Stevens Point’s Student Government Association and organizers were at the state Capitol lobbying legislators prior to the sit-in.

Between 10 and 20 were at the press conference, march and sit-in.

Aimee Peterson, a junior at UW-Superior majoring in psychology, also helped organize the event. She said she wants the 25 majors restored at her campus and believes the regents can make a difference by showing their support.

“Then that kind of gives more backbone and it gets more people to actually stand up and speak rather than just sitting down and going well nothing’s going to happen,” Peterson said. “We’re going up to the big people and saying this needs to change.”

Superior suspended the academic programs in October 2017. Peterson told UW System administrators this came as a shock. Superior said it suspended the programs due to low enrollment.

Labor organizer and UW-Stevens Point alumna Valerie Landowski graduated in 2014. But, under the current proposal, Landowski’s majors would be cut. She said UW-Superior and UW-Stevens Point are in tough spots.

“I think that they were handed down a very challenging budget,” Landowski said. “So it’s especially important that they confer with faculty members, with students primarily, and with community members and have an open dialogue about what they want their campus to look like.”

Landowski said she hopes there can be a compromise for less drastic more common sense solutions.

Administrators in attendance Wednesday said they would take the letters students read and share them with the regents.

At the Board of Regents meeting April 5, UW System President Ray Cross said discussions about UW-Stevens Point’s elimination of majors could go into the fall semester. He added that the regents shouldn’t get involved with, “campus-based conversations.”

Regents spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis said the regents are going to let UW-Stevens Point handle the discussions with student and faculty, and that UW-Stevens Point hasn’t made any decisions yet. If the campus makes a decision that results in layoffs or expanding certain programs, then the regents will get involved.

Editor’s Note: This story was last updated at 7:44 p.m. Wednesday, April 18, 2018.