A proposed 18 percent tuition increase sparked a hundreds-strong protest on Library Mall yesterday afternoon

As the UW System continues to see funding slip as a result of the $3.2 billion deficit in the 2003-05 state budget, the United Council of UW Students organized a rally to express its disapproval of the plan.

The demonstration had students bearing signs with slogans such as “Students with a passion to prevent budget slashin'” and “The Big Ten is not a tuition conference.”

Jeff Pertl, president of the United Council, said between 15 and 20 UW schools, including Green Bay, Eau Claire, Stout and Platteville, were represented.

“We’re here because of the cuts in faculty and programs which are needed for our education,” said Gretchen Reabe, UW-La Crosse student who had traveled to join the protest.

Speakers included Mike Quieto, president of the UW-Madison Teaching Assistants Association, Frank Emspak, Ph.D., vice president of the Wisconsin Federation of Teachers, and Professor of Labor at UW-Extension, among others.

“Proposed cuts regard everyone and hamper our ability to educate. Would you like to study for your midterms without a TA?” said Quieto, expressing his concern that indispensable faculty would be in jeopardy if future cuts occurred.

Others questioned the impact of the protest.

“Rallies degenerate into people hanging out on Bascom Hill, pumping music and shouting little catchphrases without giving any real thought to the issues,” said Noah Abbott, a sophomore majoring in political science. “Methods such as letter-writing campaigns and boycotts are much more effective, intelligent, refined ways of protest.”

The rally proceeded to march up State Street to the Capitol, led by police escort. The group reassembled and students addressed the crowd.

Michael Moscicke, former honor student and UW-Waukesha student-government president, told of his difficulties with the funding cuts.

“Last semester I was in four student organizations. This semester I can’t pay my tuition. The government let me down,” Moscicke said.

The demonstration concluded with more than a dozen students entering the Capitol in hopes of presenting Joint Finance Committee members with novelty-size report cards questioning the committee’s success in dealing with various financial issues such as the tuition cap, tuition increases and financial aid.

Lindsay Korotkin, a freshman at UW, felt the rally was effective.

“I can’t feel my fingers, but I feel like we made a difference,” Korotkin said. “Higher education is necessary for the whole country’s future. We need everyone to stand up for that opportunity.”