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College Republicans, Democrats differ on effects of Walker’s cuts

March 25, 2015

Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed $300 million cuts to the UW System have naturally prompted very different responses from the UW-River Falls College Democrats and Republicans, two of the four political party student organizations on campus.

The proposed budget cuts were announced on Jan. 27, and incited much speculation among students and faculty. Chancellor Dean Van Galen held two town-hall style meetings the week of Feb. 2, where he gave an overview of what was known about the potential cuts at the time, and how they may possible be absorbed.

On the UWRF faculty page, there are multiple links to documents regarding the budget cuts. A PDF file shows a graph of how much the funding percentages between the state and student tuition has fluctuated. In 2002, the state funded 61 percent of the university. After these cuts are put in place, student tuition would make up 71 percent of the funding.

A PowerPoint Van Galen used in these meetings is available for the public, too. One slide of the PowerPoint highlights exactly what the transfer from ‘public authority’ to more individualized campus autonomy would mean. In general, the shift in power would mean that the Board of Regents would have the ability to set tuition rates instead of the state legislature, campuses would have more autonomy to go about constructing facilities more freely, and less scrutiny and micromanaging by the state over all UW System campuses.

Increased campus autonomy is one of the main reasons why those in favor of the budget cuts, such as the UWRF College Republicans, believe there will be a more positive rather than negative impact on UWRF and the 25 other campuses throughout our state.

Tony Sumnicht, food science major and UWRF Student Senate president and member of the College Republicans, was mostly optimistic about what the future of our university will be after these cuts are put into effect, as most policy making will fall to the Board of Regents, instead of the state legislature.

“We know the cuts should be negotiated, but there are inefficiencies in the system that need to be addressed,” Sumnicht said. “Right now, part of the state UW statute even has regulations about how parking has to happen on campus, and a whole bunch of other regulations that the state legislature should just let the system take care of on its own, and not put its hands into everything going on.”

Mark Struble, a member of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said quite the opposite.

“I am totally against the cuts the governor has proposed, it will have a definitely negative impact on the university and the UW as a whole,” Struble said. “It’s hard to say who will be most impacted by the cuts, but definitely the students will be affected by higher cost of education, eventually. The UW System will end up cutting staff or removing important programs needed, this is just a stupid idea on balancing the deficit.”

Both the College Democrats and Republicans have not been very active on campus this year, as it is not a presidential election year. Neither of these organizations have planned actions to have their voices heard on this matter.

Dan Saunders, biology major and student organizer for UWRF’s branch of the “Better UW Initiative” talked about what this organization is trying to do. It was created within days of Walker’s proposal, working to have the cuts at least negotiated to be lower, if not stopped altogether.

Saunders said in an email that there is currently a day of action being planned on all campuses statewide through this organization for April 2. He said that it is pertinent for students to protest the cuts on this day, as class selection will decrease dramatically for next fall, and how many negatively impacted staff will be, as staff reductions inevitable.

If protests do not happen and get the budget cuts stopped, even Sumnicht, who is in favor of the cuts, admitted that: “Regardless of what happens, we’ll have a different UW System after this year.”