Wisconsin-Madison Student Talks Protests And Activism
NT: What, as students, are you fighting for?
AA: We’ve been there to support people. I have a lot of friends in the education school so that was a big thing for me because they’re studying to be teachers. And teaching assistants--they’re the ones who are really getting hit hard because it’s their health benefits and funding that’s getting lost and their graduate school that’s getting paid for that’s getting lost with this bill. The issue I have with the whole thing is that no one has the ability to collectively bargain. At the end of the day whether teachers and grad students get the budget they wanted or Gov. Walker gets the budget he wanted, they should have the ability to discuss it and fight for what they want.
NT: What was it like at the Capitol on Thursday?
AA: It was pretty crazy. At 10 a.m. there was the walkout where people left their classes and walked up State Street, which is a mile from campus to the Capitol. They marched up there and then once you were in the Capitol, it was packed with people. Everyone had signs and posters, there were chants going on. So it was definitely a rally to say the least.
NT: How was the word spread?
AA: On Sunday night there was a Facebook event circulating called “Hands off our Teachers,” and it said there were going to be rallies each day at 11 a.m. so come to the Capitol, this is how you get involved, this is what the bill is about. Everyone just kind of hit attending and then more information was growing. You’d see it on peoples’ Facebook statuses and on Twitter and it kept escalating.
The College Democrats have done a lot because they’re the ones clearly opposing the bill. And then it’s sort of gone from there. Madison just got ranked in the top 10 for most influential social media schools, so I know there’s been a lot with communication on Twitter from the school. The school newspaper was tweeting a press conference held by the school chancellor.
AA: What I found really interesting was that the bill currently doesn’t include the firefighters or police officers—those government workers aren’t involved in the budget changes—so the entire Madison police force and fire department marched the Capitol in full uniform in support of the other union workers getting affected, which I thought was really moving and impressive.
NT: What does this say about student activism?
AA: It spoke volumes...It was nice that a generation that’s been seen as so apathetic was getting involved because they saw something as unjust and they had the resources to do it.
At the end of the day, whichever side of the coin you sit on, it was a great statement for a public university, which was in the 60s a very politically active and liberal campus. It was just nice to see so many students getting involved in something that, in theory, doesn’t "affect them."