Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


At crucial juncture, invest in UW

At a recent open forum soliciting input on the design of the
new Union South, one of the architects posed a seemingly simple question: ?What
makes a place uniquely Wisconsin?? Initially, I thought it would be an easy
question to answer. However, the pensive silence in the room underscored the
challenge of self-reflection and the even greater challenge of converting the
insight gained into visible change.

We are at a unique and exciting crossroads in the history of
this university, a period of growth and transition toward the next era for
University of Wisconsin. It is an era that will require us to embody the
decennial reaccredidation team?s task of redefining what it means ?to be a
great public university in a changing world.?

We all claim we want change. However, at the risk of
sounding trite, change is all around us, especially on campus. In five months,
we will have a new chancellor. In five years, the Wisconsin Institutes for
Discovery and a south campus union will transform the near-west campus. In five
decades, I wouldn?t even attempt to give a campus tour, and I will probably be
lost myself.


The change I speak of is more than just physical, however ?
it is also philosophical. The most recent state budget cycle has everyone
rethinking the role of the public in a public institution of higher learning.
The UW Foundation is dialing for dollars to retain faculty while the faculty
members themselves are digging in their pockets to keep college affordable for
low-income students.

Meanwhile, the regents are renewing their commitment to
ensuring the comfort of all students, regardless of background, as they prepare
a re-energized version of Plan 2008. And of course, all students will have to
abide by a modified conduct code, one that truly embraces the Wisconsin Idea
that the boundaries of the campus are the boundaries of the world.

Each of these examples could represent a fundamental change
to what we define as uniquely UW, and ?uniquely Wisconsin.? Add to the list the
shifting philosophy of sustainability, new attitudes about segregated fees,
debates about differential tuition, etc., and it is obvious that today?s UW is
being transformed at a critical juncture.

In something akin to an ?aha!? moment, I began noticing this
change only recently, with just a few more months left in my undergraduate
career. Is it that there is more change to be seen now compared to my freshman
year? Perhaps. But it may be that I?m just noticing it more than I used to. Why
didn?t I notice it before? What can we do to get others to see it, too?

I believe the answer lies in convincing ourselves and our
fellow students that this multitude of change whirling around us does indeed
impact us, and that it is our responsibility to steer our changing world in the
best possible direction. There are plenty of individuals who say, ?Yes, we can
guide this change.? Take your pick of the almost 20,000 people who echoed that
phrase at the Kohl Center last month.

Yet there were, at the most, a total of 20 students who came
to the chancellor search committee?s open forums. And not even 15 people showed
up to the listening session on the proposed changes to the conduct code. One
can only guess the level of attendance at any of the upcoming Union building
project sessions.

Is the general student population simply ignorant of the
enormous change being wrought? Is it apathy, or is it complacence? To be
honest, I might not have filled out the latest survey from the Union seeking
student input had it not been for the chance to win a Terrace chair. And
midterms and other far more exciting distractions are reason enough to not want
to read the dense conduct statutes or the lengthy reaccredidation documents.

And there really is no point in any one of us getting
involved or attempting to influence this change, right? Any one student will
probably be out of here in four years. There is no reason he should care about
a Union he will probably never use. And she will probably never meet the new
chancellor or violate the modified misconduct code. Why should any of us care?

The answer goes back to the Union architect?s question: It?s
the fact that we do care and that we do get involved that defines ?Wisconsin?
so distinctly. It is up to us as current students to preserve that unique
quality as a constant during this era of tribulation and turnover. We cannot
just sit back and watch this university change around us ? we have to be the
ones affecting it. If we desire change, we must work for it. This is our
university. We are the public that supports it, we are the public that benefits
from it, and we are the public that ought to be its steward.


Suchita Shah ([email protected]) is a senior
majoring in neurobiology.

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