from The Badger Herald
Friday, March 11, 2005
Protestors wrap up hunger strike
by Caitlin Kiley
Students protesting tuition increases ended a three-day hunger strike with a rally at the Capitol Rotunda Thursday morning.
A group of more than 40 UW students, staff and faculty drank only water during the strike and took turns staying at the Capitol during daytime hours. Strikers represented the Associated Students of Madison, the Multicultural Student Coalition, MEChA, the TAA and several other organizations.
The rally came just a day after the state’s Joint Finance Committee announced it would restructure the budget completely instead of approving Gov. Jim Doyle’s plan, which would have increased UW tuition from 5 to 7 percent per year for two years.
Eric Mata, who works for the Diversity Education Program and participated in the hunger strike, said he felt the strike was a success.
“I think it went really well. I think a good sign of that was the number of people who joined in after the first day,” Mata said. “We also had a lot of people just come through and say ‘thanks for doing this.’”
A group of 34 students at UW-Eau Claire led a similar strike, ending the protest on Wednesday night after they said they felt their concerns had been heard.
According to Andrew Werthmann, president of the UW-Eau Claire Progressive Students Association, the group received words of support from Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, and Rep. Frank Boyle, D-Superior. But Werthmann added ending the strike did not signify an end to the students’ efforts.
“This fight is definitely not over,” Werthmann said. “We want to support these representatives with as much as we can muster.”
While Werthmann said the strike in Eau Claire was a joint effort among several student groups, including the UW-Eau Claire College Republicans, a partisan division marked Madison’s strike.
A small group of College Republicans participated in an “eat-in” Wednesday at the Capitol where they protested the hunger strike by eating lunch in front of the strikers.
According to UW-Madison College Republican member Jeremy Wick, the group wanted to demonstrate their belief ASM was hypocritically requesting a tuition rollback while increasing segregated fees ρρ the funds the student government annually allocates to different student organizations and services.
“We tried not to give the impression that we were for raising tuition, which we obviously weren’t,” Wick said. “We just wanted to make it known that while they were protesting higher tuition they were raising our fees.”
But Lauren Lopez, a UW junior who spoke at the rally, said she felt the need for affordable education shouldn’t be divisive along party lines.
“It’s a working class issue and I don’t see it as a Republican-Democrat or a liberal-conservative issue,” Lopez said. “I see it as an issue that we can actually unify on.”
Lyntrell Smith, a UW senior who also spoke at the rally, said rising tuition costs pose a serious problem for the campus community.
“I hope people don’t see this as … ‘the liberals or the students of color are whining again,’ because that’s stupid,’” Smith said. “Everybody has a right to go to school. Education should be affordable.”
In his speech, Smith urged legislators to pay attention to student demands, admonishing legislators to remember students’ power as voters in a democracy.
“If you’re going to raise tuition, then we’re just not going to see you in office next year,” Smith said.
Mike Prentiss, spokesman for the Joint Finance Committee chair Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said the committee has heard the students’ concerns, adding it was still too early to predict how the new budget might handle tuition fees.