By Kathryn Wisniewski, The Pointer
Against the backdrop of a vibrantly blue sky and under the sunshine of a clear Wisconsin March day, students, faculty and community members rallied on the sundial in light of the program restructuring proposal at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
Representative Katrina Shankland spoke to kick off the event on Wednesday, March 21.
A silent sit-in at Old Main was next on the itinerary for the “Save Our Majors” demonstration. The sit-in at the UWSP administration building lasted for 13 minutes. Each minute was symbolic for one of the majors proposed to be cut. Demonstrators then marched to the sundial for the rally.
The demonstration was led by UWSP students, though involvement quickly spread outside of the student body.
Valerie Landowski, 2014 UWSP alumna, helped organize the rally.
“I knew I had to be on ground working with students to make change,” Landowski said during the rally. “This week has made me more proud of this university than ever before.”
A small platform was set up and a microphone provided for the organized speakers, though those in attendance were encouraged to sign up for a time to speak.
Nicole Hellenbrand was a volunteer at the rally who worked the sign-in and voter registration table.
“I wanted to get more involved in 2016 when I saw the tide turn against the everyman,” Hellenbrand said. “It feels like everything is going against us, but we can put up a good fight.”
Gubernational candidates Andy Gronic, Kelda Roys and Mike McCabe were some of the people to speak at the rally.
Though campaigning made its way into McCabe’s speech, the presence of politicians related to one of the themes that recurred throughout the rally.
Dylan Griepentrog, freshman political science and psychology major, called for students to use their voices in politics.
“It’s not going to effect one person,” Griepentrog said, “It’s going to affect all of us… Student voice holds weight and we need all of you.”
The organizers of the rally gave attendees the resources to register to vote and write to their legislators to call for change.
The rally shifted the narrative from a conversation between students and administration to one of citizens to legislators.
This shift did not only give the floor to students to lead the conversation, it has opened the discourse to a larger audience. Talk of the program restructuring plan has now made an appearance on the Today Show, in The Washington Post, in Fortune Magazine and on WPR, among others, the rally contributing to the forward momentum of the discussion.
Ivy Engwall, senior communications and philosophy major, attended the rally as a representative of College Greens.
Engwall noted the “great turnout” to the event. Having attended several of the other forums on the topic of the program restructuring throughout the past few weeks, Engwall felt the rally gave students the opportunity to “feel like we’re doing something.”
“It was inspiring,” Engwall said. “And I think it will inspire more people.”
Hellenbrand was also impressed with the diversity of the people who turned out to the rally.
“There are people from all walks of life,” Hellenbrand said, “young, old, conservative, centrist, moderate and liberal. It’s everyone getting affected. It’s not just one group. As soon as they start pecking away at one group, eventually other groups will start being pecked away at. You can’t feel secure in your position if you don’t take a stand.”