BADGER HERALD: UW students plan walk-out to stand in solidarity with public workers

February 17, 2011
Ryan Rainey

In their most extreme display of student opposition to Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill so far, teaching assistants at the University of Wisconsin announced they will hold an off-campus “teach-out” to continue protests against the legislation.

Teaching assistants will hold their classes away from the UW campus for the event in a show of solidarity with university employees and students, a statement from the Teaching Assistants’ Association’s Madison chapter said.

Alex Hanna, a UW graduate student and TAA member, said he believes many TAs will hold their classes nearby or inside of the Capitol, where thousands of protesters have spoken out against Walker’s proposal since Monday.

“The Capitol has become a hub of activity,” Hanna said. “I imagine that it will be a place where many people choose to hold classes.”

In addition to the TAA teach-out, UW’s student government endorsed a proposed undergraduate student walkout.

Associated Students of Madison Chair Brandon Williams said Student Council passed a resolution endorsing a Thursday walkout, which has gained a significant online following.

UW faculty received a message from Faculty Senate public relations group PROFS recommending professors use their own discretion for determining the “appropriate educational experience” for their students.

“As you know, it is likely that classes will be disrupted on Thursday,” a statement from PROFS leaders Judith Burstyn and Joe Salmons said. “We recognize that there are many ways that students learn.”

Despite the TAA announcement supporting the teach-out and the growing movement for undergraduates to walk out of their classes, Chancellor Biddy Martin and Provost Paul DeLuca reiterated several times Wednesday UW officials have planned to continue classes as normal.

“We value public debate and participation in the political process, however, we do not believe that this should come at the cost of a day of instruction for our student body,” DeLuca said in a message to the UW community.

Faculty leadership groups decided to send their message separately from DeLuca’s announcement, University Committee President Judith Burstyn said.

“We thought we wanted to send out something else, so we did,” Burstyn said.

Officials including Martin and Williams said the contractual or legal implications of the TAA’s teach-out are unclear and will likely not be known until after the protests have ended.

“We are advising people to hold classes always and to go to class,” Martin told The Badger Herald. “I feel that it is really premature to say anything about repercussions.”

Martin also said the possible financial consequences of the teach-out remain unclear.

TAA members originally said UW administration and ASM had promised them the university would not take legal action, but officials in student government said they had not spoken with TAA members Wednesday.

The TAA has been encouraging their members to spend the night at the Capitol to keep pressure on state legislators currently processing the bill, Hanna said.

He emphasized the teach-out is not a strike, but instead a work stoppage moving classes off campus.

The most recent event causing TAs to walk out was an April 2004 strike after negotiations between the state and TAA collapsed. The strike lasted two days.