In its ongoing struggle with the University of Wisconsin chancellor’s office, Wisconsin Student Public Interest Research Group gathered signatures from 10 percent of the university’s population for its petition asking the chancellor to respect the organization’s allotted funding.
WISPIRG, which has collected over 4,500 petitions, received support from more than 115 faculty and staff members and gained signatures of 19 student organizations in their efforts to urge the chancellor to respect students, according to a WISPIRG statement.
Two integral components of this petition, according to WISPIRG Board Chair Emily Eyck, ask Interim Chancellor David Ward to sign a contract allowing the organization’s professional staff to work on its behalf and to respect the funding decision by the Associated Students of Madison.
Having 10 percent of campus in support of the petition, Eyck said, means there is widespread support by students. She said in planning the petition drive, WISPIRG initially wanted to get about 5 percent of students in support, but they ultimately decided to base their goal off how many people typically vote in ASM elections.
“We realized if we wanted a buzz on campus about this and show the chancellor he is stepping on students rights, then we would need to get more,” Eyck said.
Ward outlined his final decision to overturn SSFC’s budget decision for WISPIRG in March 2012.
In a letter addressed to Gardner and former SSFC Chair Sarah Neibart, two individuals who previously approved that fiscal year’s segregated fee budgets in their respective branches of government, Ward said he would present his final decision on the segregated fee budget to the Board of Regents in April that year.
In the letter, Ward said he and Neibart came to an agreement on WISPIRG’s professional staff line item, as long as funding for it was not included in the overall segregated fee funding. Neibart said this was a compromise and added that Ward did not technically have the authority to completely strike the items without first consulting with her.
UW senior and former ASM Chair Allie Gardner, who worked as an intern for WISPIRG during her freshman and sophomore year, said 10 percent — at the same amount of voters in ASM elections — is a reflective group.
“For the time being, I think it is his responsibly and his job to make a decision,” Gardner said.
Eyck said the contract would allow the organization to work with professionals in the field of activism. This is important, she added, because professionals unaffiliated with UW would not have to report back to the university.
Administration argues for the need to have these staff positions to come through the university, according to Eyck. She said she personally has a problem with that because in doing so, WISPIRG staff would not be accountable to students because they would be accountable to administration.
“I think that they are just hoping that we will give up and move on, but we are not going to,” Eyck said. “It is important for the organization and for the rights that students have at UW-Madison to decide where segregated fees go.”