With a focus on diversity and scholarship programs and students “starving to study and studying to starve,” the United Council of University of Wisconsin Students addressed Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget cuts at the state Capitol Monday.
The speakers stood behind a poster with the message #WI NEED TO TALK. Nneka Akubeze, executive director of the United Council of UW students said Wisconsin needs to talk about these issues.
Amanda McGovern, a student at UW Stevens Point and president of United Council, said with the high expense of attending to university and then graduating and starving again, students were “starving to study and studying to starve” — a running theme throughout the news conference.
McGovern said United Council is against a public authority. She said public authority directly affects ability to maintain shared governance rights and the ability for students to advocate for themselves.
“We deserve the opportunity to continue this research, to continue our development as individuals and to continue our development in Wisconsin,” McGovern said. “We have the right to advocate for ourselves, but we have the right to learn and develop as leaders.”
Yolanda Pruitt, a student at UW-Madison and First Wave Scholar, spoke about how the budget cuts will affect programs like First Wave. From Phoenix, Pruitt said she is a low-income female student of color. She said she was never sure how she would be able to afford going to college, but received the First Wave scholarship.
“It was the happiest day of my life,” Pruitt said. “I called my dad while I was on the bus and he cried with me while he was at work. And my dad doesn’t cry.”
Pruitt said First Wave is a community for her. With budget cuts, she said First Wave will have less money to admit students into their program. If First Wave doesn’t have the money to bring in students, they can not continue the legacy, she said.
Karma Chavez, a UW-Madison professor of communication arts, said people must support students color on campus, who suffer daily experiences of microaggressions and macroaggressions.
Many of the students, including McGovern, said budget cuts in addition to the tuition freeze would force UW schools to raise student fees.
Eric Upchurch, member of the Young, Gifted and Black coalition said there are barriers to education. When at UW-Madison, Upchurch was a PEOPLE scholar. The UW-Madison PEOPLE program scholarship is built and partly funded by some of the money that will be cut through the budget cuts, Upchurch said.
Upchurch said budget cuts and right to work legislations are added barriers to Wisconsin residents and will especially affect people of color.
“(Budget cuts) disproportionately affect those who, without generational wealth and societal connections and favorable biases, will fall by the wayside,” Upchurch said. “I’m talking about people of color. I’m talking about black folks.”