By Alan Hovorka, Stevens Point Journal
STEVENS POINT - University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point students intend to stage a sit-in of the campus administration building on Wednesday to protest proposed changes to academic programs.
The demonstration, called Save Our Majors, will take place from 1 to 5 p.m.. Participants will gather at the sundial at 12:30 p.m. and then march to Old Main at 1 p.m. to conduct a sit-in for 13 minutes, a minute for each major that is up elimination under a university proposal.
The student-led and -organized protest is in support of the 13 humanities and social science majors that the university is considering cutting in its proposal.
Outcry from the campus community and surrounding areas continues after UW-Stevens Point unveiled a proposal in early March to eliminate 13 liberal arts degree majors, including English, history and political science. The cuts of 13 majors and the additions or expansions of 16 majors are part of university efforts to deal with a projected deficit of $4.5 million through two years because of declining enrollment and lower tuition revenues.
After the sit-in, students will deliver a list of demands and requests to the university and then march back to the sundial, said Valerie Landowski, a 2014 political science and international studies alumna of UW-Stevens Point.
Landowski, also an organizer, said they want the administration to work closer with students and the community to the solve the larger problem of the budget deficit. Many students believe university leaders went about this proposal in a unilateral manner, she said.
“Students are asking to be active participants in the problem-solving process,” Landowski said.
Organizers said the demonstration will be peaceful. A Facebook event for the protest showed about 100 people indicated they would attend with almost 400 expressing interest in the event.
The remainder of the demonstration will focus on a lineup of speeches from faculty, staff, students and others. Organizers will also have tables to register voters and to call elected representatives, which Landowski said will be nonpartisan because they just want people be involved in the democratic process. The action will also include an art exhibit because the art major is on the chopping block, Landowski said.
Previously, university officials have spoken at Student Government Association meeting about the proposal and conducted two listening sessions. The Student Government Association and state Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, held a separate town hall as well.
De Valk commended the listening and question-and-answer sessions held by the university, but she said the larger issue is the lack of funding for the university.
“The issue is larger than chancellor and provost’s decisions,” she said.
Cuts and expansions
The 13 majors that would be eliminated because of low enrollment are:
- American studies
- Art (but not graphic design)
- English (other than English for teacher certification)
- History (social science for teacher certification would continue)
- Music literature
- Political science
- Sociology (social work major would continue)
UW-Stevens Point proposes expanding eight academic programs as majors:
- Chemical engineering
- Computer information systems
- Conservation law enforcement
- Fire science
- Graphic design
Another eight bachelor's degrees or advanced degrees would be created:
- Captive wildlife
- Ecosystem design and remediation
- Environmental engineering
- Geographic information science
- Master of business administration
- Master of natural resources
- Doctor of physical therapy