Protesters don't reflect sentiment of all students on campus

Original Publication: Daily Cardinal, University of Wisconsin’s Student Newspaper

Last Friday, leaflets encouraging students to walk out of class at 11:11 a.m. littered the campus. For the past week, UW students had been subject to cancelled classes, teaching assistants missing from office hours and megaphone-bearing organizers disrupting classes to encourage students to participate in the protests. One such organizer was walking through the halls of Van Vleck when a shout came from the library that spoke for the rest of us: “Shut up! I’m trying to study!”

Standing up to voice your opinion and petition your government for a redress of grievances is something we consider vital to our democracy. Last year, millions of Americans around the country stood up to protest a health-care law they felt was being unfairly rammed down their throats. At the time they were mocked and berated as “teabaggers” who simply didn’t understand what was good for them. Today ironically, many of those same people who thought so little of the Tea Party are now standing on the steps of the Capitol wanting their voices to be heard.

We Badgers embrace this back and forth. Our university has a long history of being politically active and there is no reason we can’t continue to engage in civil political discourse. Yet when that discourse becomes so vociferous as to interfere with our education, it is too much.

Whether or not you agree with Gov. Scott Walker’s repair bill is certainly your own choice. While I would politely argue that when you have bus drivers in Madison making more than $100,000 a year there is a systemic problem that needs to be fixed. You have every right to tell me that union rights are human rights. When you do so however, please don’t barge into (or out of) my lecture hall making your point. Furthermore, while canceling class may be a relief to some, those of us who care about our academics are left to figure out how to learn the material on our own.

The uproar isn’t just limited to UW. Last week, for three straight days the Madison School District shut down because too many teachers falsely called in sick. When teachers fraudulently call in sick, it affects more than just the students they are expected to teach. Their parents, a number of them UW professors, then have to stay home and miss work or scramble to find a baby sitter. Teachers have every right to stand up for what they believe in, but when they put their political beliefs before a child’s education, they become irresponsible.

Yet it wasn’t just some teachers who irresponsibly failed to show up for work last week. Astonishingly 14 state senators fled the state to avoid doing the job they were sent by voters to do—represent their district. By skipping out on their obligations as senators, they are delaying the very democratic process they claim to be defending. Their actions are akin to a sports team not showing up for a game until the other team agrees to forfeit. Like President Obama has said, elections have consequences. Those senators need to end this now and show up to do their jobs like the people elected them to do.

Finally, as I scanned the signs around the Capitol Thursday, I couldn’t help but notice a sign with crosshairs on Walker’s face with the caption “Reload.” There seemed to have been a consensus in the wake of the shooting in Tucson that we needed to tone down the violent political rhetoric. I wholeheartedly agree. Yet when I see signs like this and many more with slogans like “Suck it Walker,” I am reminded that not everyone holds those same sentiments. We must continue to do our best to keep this dialogue civil, and not hurl nasty ignorant insults at each other.

As the clock struck 11:11 a.m., the class I was sitting in continued as normal. I looked to see if anyone was walking in the hallway, but saw no movement. A friend of mine later told me that he was in a 200-person lecture, and a single student packed up his belongings and left. In the end we all love UW, no matter where you stand on Walker’s budget repair bill. I for one will choose to express that love by continuing to attend class and not disrupt those around me who wish to do the same.

Matt Payne is a junior majoring in Chinese and economics. We welcome all feedback. Please send letters to the editor to [email protected]