UW means the University of Wisconsin, not the University of Walker
By Sam Nelson, George Washington University SLAP
On August 1st, as the U.S. Student Association’s 65th National Student Congress began to wrap up, over one hundred students from across the country assembled at the University of Wisconsin – Madison’s Bascom Hall Administrative Building to march on the Wisconsin State Capitol Building. The message, “Celebrating the Death of the UW Madison privatization legislation”, was aimed at Governor Scott Walker, who has continued his privatization efforts, despite a bi-partisan defeat of his privatization bill in the State Legislature.
The march began with students conducting a banner drop on Bascom, emblazoned with Bucky the Badger and the words, “Keep Education Public!” That kicked off a rally at the building, with UW food service worker Mike Imbrogno, and Beth Huang, vice-president of the United Council of UW Students, giving speeches on the importance to students and workers that UW remaining public. Students then began marching down Bascom Hill onto State Street with signs, chanting, and a marching band playing, giving it the feel of New Orleans-style funeral.
Despite the sun and heat, the spirits and energy of everyone was through the roof. UW tour groups watched us move past them, patrons and tourists on State St looked at us with some clapping and throwing their firsts in the air with us. We reached the steps of the Capitol Building and collected ourselves through more chants and rallying. The students then turned around and heard short remarks by the newly-elected USSA President Tiffany Loftin and Vice President Sophia Zaman.
Then came the moment many of us were waiting for: entering the now-iconic Capitol Building that had been the spark for the past year and a half of direct action and activism. We went in through the doors, our voices echoing through the marble halls. We reached the rotunda with students yelling on the first floor and draping banners and signs on the rails of the second. Chants led into a mic-check led by UW Madison student Allie Gardner. We made it clear that the students don’t want privatization, the workers don’t want privatization, only Walker and his corporate sponsors want it.
We then left the building, with some government workers even cheering us on. Outside, UW student Tina Treviño-Murphy spoke, making it clear that our sentiment was not going away, that we would be watching Walker, that we would not let education in Wisconsin or anywhere else fall into the hands of corporations that do not have the interest of the workers or students or community in their plans. Spirits were high as we marched back down State. The energy wasn’t dying down at all, despite the cloudless, hot day. Voices horse, brows sweaty, we gathered under the shade by the main quad back on campus and took photos, laughed, and cooled off. Some students then went off to their Board Meeting, and the rest to the Electoral Action Training that was about to resume.
The action was inspiring to those who were there. The unity, the energy, the students who participated will never forget it. The best part is that this won’t be the last or the biggest action these students will be a part of in the coming months and years. This is only a beginning, a spark. There is hope that like what the Capitol occupation did for the labor movement and activists over a year ago, this Congress will have facilitated the knowledge and relationships for students to begin to truly revive the student movement in the United States. We are now sandwiched between Quebec and Mexico, two massive student movements that grow each day. It is our turn now. Let this action be merely a taste of what’s to come, let it make students want to see it again only ten times, a hundred times, a thousand times bigger. Let’s make the most out of the next school year, for it will be an exciting one indeed.