In the past few weeks, our university email addresses have received varying opinions about the proposed budget cuts to the University of Wisconsin System. Both sides have pointed fingers in one way or another, but the dust is finally settling and we can begin a constructive dialogue between parties. It is time we check our preconceptions about Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget cuts at the door and actively try to understand both sides.
Some could argue UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank started finger pointing with a mass email to parents encouraging them to lobby against the proposed cuts. However, on Wednesday, Feb. 25, she posted in her blog, “Blank’s Slate” taking a step back. This most recent communication wasn’t a rallying cry against the governor’s actions like those in the past.
She is now hoping to “engage in a civil public conversation about the role of UW.” She makes a point that she recognizes and “appreciate[s] the interest shown by Walker and legislators in keeping the UW strong” and that she is “confident we can find solutions that keep the best interests of our state and students at heart.” It is clear our chancellor is ready to sit and discuss the proper course of action. She is not claiming Walker hates the UW System like some others have stated.
Republicans and Democrats alike can take a page out of her book, acknowledging the interests and the motivations of the opposing side instead of digressing to name-calling. Stephen Covey, author of longtime bestseller “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” wrote, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” More simply, make an effort to hear out your opposition before completely ruling out other ideas.
The student body, the faculty and the people of Wisconsin realize budget cuts will be made. In order to make these cuts happen as smooth as possible, we all need to sit down, articulate issues and present them in a professional and constructive matter.
You might be asking yourself, “How do we do this?” The answer is simple: stay informed. Just reading information in agreement with your opinion isn’t enough. You need to stay informed with the opposing side as well. As somebody these cuts affect, you’re responsible for understanding what any legislation does to you and those in your community. Of course there will be growing pains associated with the budget cuts — nobody is denying that.
Instead of looking at the immediate impact, it is important to look at what is going to be affected a year, five years and even ten years down the road for the UW System. In the end, people don’t perceive a school based on what it is for a few years, but what it has done in its entirety. If any legislation means a stronger UW after a couple years of tightening our belt, then we owe it to future students and faculty to tighten our belt.
A professional debate is scheduled to take place between the College Democrats and the College Republicans and I recommend everybody attend. It is a great opportunity for our student body to begin the discussion our chancellor is encouraging and get relevant, up-to-date information about the future of our campus.
Republican or Democrat, we are all students, and it is our duty as students to understand these changes and to make our voices heard to keep UW strong. The student body must unite, to sift and winnow through the numbers and explain what we think should be done. This is an opportunity for the student body to show our resiliency and our dedication to our university. All it takes is constructive and civil discourse.
Michael Pesendorfer II ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in economics.