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Panelists discuss UW System at State of the System Forum

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April Wolford, Student Government Reporter

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This past Wednesday, April 4, UAPUWL held a State of the System forum. This forum consisted of a panel of individuals pertinent to the UW System and UWL, including State Senator Jennifer Shilling, UWL Student Senate President Jacob Schimmel, Regent Tim Higgins, UWL Faculty Senate Chair Anne Galbraith, and Peter Hart-Brinson who is president of the United Faculty and Academic Staff of UW-Eau Claire.  

The forum began by having the panel answer a question about what their biggest source of pride as well as their biggest concern is with the UW System. Most of the panelists cited the outstanding students as well as the prosperity that UW campuses give to their communities as sources of pride.  

Jacob Schimmel stated that “students have had to deal with a lot of negativity” from the older generations, including many of the decision-makers in the state. Despite this, he explained, he is proud of how much work UW students have managed to put into not just their education, but also campus organizations, and part time jobs. 

However, panelists also claimed to be concerned about the way that the lack of funding has been affecting the system – including the cutting of programs, the lack of appreciation for the nonfinancial benefits of an education, and the lack of appreciation for educators. 

Several questions directed at the panel related to the Wisconsin Idea, an ideology originating from former UW President, Charles Van Hise, whose philosophy states, “I shall never be content until the beneficent influence of the University reaches every family of the state” (wisc.edu).  

There were comments from both those in the audience and some panelists that the Wisconsin Idea has been translated into a business model in recent years. 

President Hart-Brinson stated that one of his concerns is the way that the System has begun to monitor numbers in enrollment per department, dropouts, and class size, and then used this information to cut various programs to find the most financially responsible approach.  

Regent Tim Higgins disagreed with this ideology, though, claiming that it is “perfectly appropriate to address the issues from an economic point of view” because the University System was “created for the public, and to a large extent our public is interested in being better off economically.” 

When asked about the nonfinancial benefits of the University System, State Senator Shilling explained that while financial aspects are important, the University System is a place designed to create a well-rounded individual.  

President Schimmel echoed this, identifying the importance of activities and organizations made possible through segregated fees – something he claims to be on the chopping block. He explained that many of those with the liberty to make decisions for the System “want to see a fiscal message.” 

President Hart-Brinson addressed this issue in response to a question about the resistance towards liberal education, expressing that a college education is about “training people to be able to think independently . . . to think critically.” He also affirmed that the future of the economy is in the skills which are taught through a liberal education. 

In discussing the lack of incentive given to educators in the UW System, Chair of Faculty Senate, Anne Galbraith, stated, “even though we’ve been told that faculty governance and the input of other constituents on campus has not changed, it has.” 

Regent Higgins agreed with this, stating, “When we drag behind in faculty compensation, we are undermining the entire university.” 

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Panelists discuss UW System at State of the System Forum