Welcome Back from the President of SGA
Seth T. Hoffmeister
SGA.President@uwsp.edu
sethHoff.jpg
Welcome back to another year at UW-Stevens Point, I hope you all had a relaxing and fulfilling sum­mer and are ready for another great year at UW-Stevens Point. As I was getting ready for classes this semes­ter, I couldn’t help but think about how lucky I am to be a Pointer. In such contentious times politically and socially, we are lucky to be where we are at.

Public higher education interna­tionally is in crisis, and we are not exempt from the problem, but I like to think that, at least for the time being, we have it a little better here. It is dangerous to become too con­tent with what is in reality a national trend of degradation of quality high­er education. This will lead to com­placency, and while we do receive a great education, we must all commit to acting in a way that ensures this the standard of quality is the level of standard that is offered long after we receive our diplomas and enter the workforce (with an average burden of $25,000 in student loan debt).

SGA President Seth Hoffmeister (right) and Vice President Shantanu
Pai (left).  ​​
Photo by Samantha Feld.​​​ 
​​​
 

In Quebec, provincial leader­ship last spring announced tuition would increase 75%. In Chile over the past year and a half, police offi­cers and the military are ordered to attack students who are asking their government officials to reconsider classifying education, both second­ary and higher, as a consumer good. At the University of Virginia, which was founded by Thomas Jefferson, the Board of Visitors (similar to the UW’s Board of Regents) made an attempt behind closed doors to uni­laterally fire the university president who resisted attempts to privatize the university. Public higher education, internationally, is in crisis.

We as students recognize the importance of an accessible, afford­able, and quality public higher edu­cation, but as state and federal funds for higher education are continuous­ly and systematically deprioritized and dismantled, we must remember to advocate for ourselves. In Chile a few days ago, 150,000 students marched on their nation’s capital for what is guaranteed to us as students in Wisconsin in our state’s laws. At UWSP we are not exempt from these problems facing our education and our future, but we are in a position of power to do something about that.

You as a student are guaran­teed by state law and equal seat in matters pertaining to institutional governance. You as a student are guaranteed the primary formulation of policy development for all things concerning student life services and interests. You as a student are guar­anteed the right and responsibility to dispose student fees to pay for those things, which at a campus of 9,200 totals around $12 million. You as a student are guaranteed the right to organize as you determine. Such organization is manifested in our Student Government Association, and the nearly 200 student organiza­tions that you form and you pay for. You have power; that is codified in state law, but with great power comes great responsibility.

Living in 2012, we are familiar with societal contention, and as we get closer to a Presidential election, we are seeing more and more student issues in the spotlight. Student loan debt in the last year surpassed two significant milestones. First, total stu­dent loan debt surpassed that of total credit card debt. Second, it surpassed the one trillion dollar mark. It is unacceptable that each student in the United States graduates with an esti­mated $25,000 in student loan debt, burdening prospective job hunters in an already dismal economy. We are forced to take out more and more loans to pay for our rising cost of tuition.

Going a University of Wisconsin institution, we are lead to believe that this is a public institution of higher learning, but after decades of de-pri­oritization in the state budget, only 17% of our university’s total budget comes from the state. The rest, for the most part, comes from tuition dollars. I am the 83%. In order to continue to have access to the same quality of education that is the tradi­tion of UW-Stevens Point, there is no way we can continue without sup­port from the state. Failure to restore funds from the state will result in the death of public higher education. As state and federal support shrinks, so opens the door for the privatization of public higher education.

Furthermore, we must realize that this is not simply a Democrat- Republican issue. Former Governor Jim Doyle, a Democrat, cut the UW System $250 million in his last bien­nial state budget. Current Governor Scott Walker, a Republican, cut the UW System $250 million in his last biennial state budget. Education ought not to be a political issue, and as we the students, who comprise many generations who are all try­ing to better ourselves, become more disenfranchised by the deadlock and disagreement, must remember this.

I do not need to remind you how much is at stake in the upcoming Presidential election this November. What I do need to remind you of is the importance of the student vote, of one vote, of your vote. We pride our­selves on being a free and just nation, but as ‘Voter ID’ laws continue to be introduced across the nation, includ­ing Wisconsin, we are witnessing the legislation of voter suppression. Such laws have been introduced to restrict access to the polls and to targeted underrepresented communities and make it harder for them to vote. Students are among those targeted. Fight back. Vote.

With so much at stake we must take the time to recognize and be thankful for the power we do have to sway the discourse this nation is engaged in. Step up and exercise that power, but remember that with great power comes great responsibility. Work with the many professors, staff, and administration here, they are fac­ing many of the same issues and then some. We must act together, and when necessary we must fight togeth­er. It is our responsibility to keep the tradition of the Wisconsin Idea alive, and to affirm that UW-Stevens Point is a public institution of higher learn­ing, not a business. I’m a student, not a customer.


Forward,

Seth T. Hoffmeister

President,

Student Government Association

UW-Stevens Point

SGA.President@uwsp.edu