Two University of Wisconsin-Whitewater professors upset with the Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed cuts to higher education made their message unique and walked 43 miles from their campus to Madison to hand-deliver a letter to lawmakers Saturday.
James Hartwick, a UW-Whitewater associate professor in the College of Education, and geology and geography professor Eric Compas donned Camelbaks and appropriate footwear for the walk they said was symbolic of the statewide struggle.
“We see the walk as an analogy for the state,” Compas said. “We all need to slow down and talk a little bit more about what’s happening and the impacts for the environment, to students, to public workers.”
Compas added he and Hartwick met with individuals representing both sides of the issue during the walk and the discussions that took place were very fulfilling. A woman he met in a donut shop who was originally hostile to the professors’ viewpoints eventually found common ground with the educators and even agreed on a possible sales tax increase, Compas said.
The walk was cold, long and hard, Hartwick said. The two walking companions also developed sore knees and blisters over the three-day walk.
“It makes a good metaphor for democracy,” Hartwick said. “Democracy is not quick. Democracy is painful. Democracy is a struggle. But that’s how you get people together – you listen to them, you work with them and you don’t just rush things through in the dark of night.”
The professors came to the Capitol with a letter from Whitewater faculty members voicing their opposition to Walker’s budget proposals they believe would do irreparable damage to public higher education, K-12 education, access to health care, the “social safety net” and the environment.
Four Democratic lawmakers received the letter Saturday on the Capitol steps and after praising the professors’ trek, criticized the governor for refusing to listen.
“We don’t have the chance to find out what’s important to [Walker] or to tell him what is important to us so we can walk out of the room together,” Rep. Andy Jorgensen, D-Fort Atkinson, said.
Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, who has completed 19 marathons, said what the professors did far surpassed the miles he has ran.