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Milwaukee: ‘No student debt’

Published Mar 7, 2012 10:12 PM
WW photo: Bryan G. Pfeifer

The Education Rights Coalition at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee sponsored protests on campus March 1 on the National Day of Action for Education Rights. ERC includes members of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 82; the Milwaukee Graduate Assistants Association, American Federal of Teachers Local 2169; and Students for a Democratic Society.

The activists began by distributing literature on austerity measures imposed on students throughout the UW system. Tuition has doubled in 10 years, while faculty, staff and students are reeling from a $250 million state budget cut to the UW system, the largest such reduction in state history.

UW-Milwaukee, where students work the longest hours at any state campus and where the most students, staff and faculty of color are based, was singled out for even more cuts by pro-Wall Street state legislators and Gov. Scott Walker. Meanwhile, UW top administrators are getting big raises above their already six-figure salaries.

At an on-campus speak-out at Spaights Plaza, activists denounced the education cutbacks and called for slashing the pay of UW top administrators, an immediate tuition freeze, cancellation of student loan debt, an active role for ERC members in UW-Milwaukee budget decisions, and administration discussions with campus workers about working conditions.

While hoisting banners and signs, students, faculty, campus workers and community members marched to the Chancellor’s building and through the Student Union chanting, “Education should be free,” “Bail out students not banks,” “No remorse, no regret, we won’t pay our student debt!” and “Education is a right.”

They marched to a room where a provost candidate was about to speak, then picketed with banners and signs. Students confronted him about his large salary and potential $80,000 raise if he got the appointment, at the same that time austerity measures are implemented. They also held teach-ins there on how to fight education cutbacks and mobilize for funds for public education and not prisons.

ERC members concluded the protest with discussion in the Student Union about how to organize against the austerity measures. They called this day of action the beginning of their fightback.

Bryan G. Pfeifer is a UW-Milwaukee alumni and WI Bail Out the People Movement organizer.