As her student government works to convince peers Gov. Scott Walker’s budget cuts will decimate higher education, one 19-year-old college student takes a stand
Tayler Studinski is fed up.
The 19-year-old University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point sophomore has silently watched as peers elected to represent her campus denounce Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed University of Wisconsin budget reforms.
There was a recent campuswide email from her student government bemoaning the cuts. There’s been talk among students and scholars of how the reforms will supposedly butcher the state’s higher education system.
And on Wednesday, as the communications major tried to study on campus, she was distracted by a student government-led “Writing Station” set up nearby. It included blank paper, envelopes, pens, and the contact information of state legislators and the governor. Taped around the table were signs encouraging students to write a letter about the budget cuts.
The sample letter provided didn’t directly attack Governor Walker or his Republican colleagues, but did finish with the phrase, “I would implore you to fund my UW.” Studinski said she also overhead conversations at the table in which student government representatives talked about the alleged detrimental impacts of the budget cuts. And they told students who walked by the writing station without acknowledgement that “if you care about your education, you would write a letter.”
It was the last straw for Studinski.
“What bothers me is the fact that a university-funded organization is implementing propaganda techniques to manipulate the student body, taking advantage of opportunities that favor one argument and completely neglect the other,” Studinski told The College Fix.
After observing the Writing Station, Studinski said she had “no choice but to act, not to write about the impacts the budget cut has on my university, but to thank the governor, and let him know that in the midst of the thoughts of my peers and professors, there are students that support his conservative reforms and ability to get the job done.”
Her letter read in part:
“Thank you for implementing a tuition freeze and making college more affordable for someone like myself. Thank you for protecting the spirit of the voting promise and upholding the foundations of American democracy through defending voter ID laws. Thank you for turning a $3 billion deficit into a $300 million surplus without increasing a single tax dollar. Thank you for rolling up your sleeves, restoring the faith in the GOP, and being bold with your conservative reforms and accomplishments in Wisconsin and at the Iowa Freedom Summit. Thank you for valuing life and defunding Planned Parenthood in the state of Wisconsin. Thank you for making education competitive and stressing the importance of performance and merit for educators. Thank you for approving the Right to Work bill and removing big government from Wisconsin businesses, giving more freedom to workers. Lastly, I would like to thank you for staying true to the Republican Party by limiting the government, protecting my freedom and liberty, and practicing truly fiscally responsible actions in the state of Wisconsin.”
After writing it on paper the student government provided, she walked back over to the Writing Station, sealed it in an envelope, addressed to Gov. Walker, and handed it to the representatives.
“I was graciously thanked for ‘standing up for education,’” Studinski said. “If only they knew.”
The Student Government Association at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point claims to represent all students, but their recent actions have raised red flags of potential bias.
The College Fix reached out to the organization for comment on their alleged bias and unfair framing of the issue, and it’s Chief of Staff Leah Aeby responded in an email by saying “the sample letter was opposing the cuts because SGA Student Senate has voted to oppose the proposed budget cuts. However, we want ALL students with EVERY opinion to send us their thoughts. As Student Government, we want to represent every student.”
But the core issue for students like Studinski is that they feel they are not represented by their university and student government, and instead are faced with perpetual anti-Walker bias.
“Their actions represented an argument in favor of one belief, but completely repressed the other,” she said.
College Fix contributor David Hookstead is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Pictured, Tayler Studinski