The Badger Herald
The University of Wisconsin System moved one step closer to a tuition freeze for the next two years, in what could be the first in the system’s history, after the Legislature’s budget writing committee approved portions of Gov. Scott Walker’s budget Thursday.
The Joint Finance Committee voted 14-2 to approve a tuition freeze. It also approved a $2.5 million dollar cut in funding to the System during the next biennium, rather than the suggested increase of $87 million Walker proposed.
“The tuition freeze is something that’s going to help students be able to afford tuition as we move forward,” JFC Co-chair Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said. “It’s not the end all…we’re going to continue to fund the priorities of our System and our state universities, but we’re going to do so in an accountable manner because that is what people are demanding.”
The vote came after legislators from both parties said they were “disappointed” and “disgusted” with the conduct of the System because it accumulated millions in reserves while raising tuition. The senators called for more accountability and transparency rather than flexibility.
“Where we find ourselves today because of the lack of forthrightness, because of the lack of honesty, openness, we find ourselves with a motion before us that is going to, number one, establish a process that will give us more oversight over the University,” Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, said.
Harsdorf said providing more oversight on the System will benefit both taxpayers and students of the state.
In a statement, Interim Chancellor David Ward said he was disappointed the committee eliminated new funding for the System in the upcoming biennium. He said UW-Madison could cover the expenses but that it will be difficult for it to meet operational obligations in the future.
"We must work together going forward to rebuild the trust between the university and the Legislature, to ensure that our goals and objectives for the university are aligned, and that there is a shared commitment to the level of state investment that will allow the state to maintain a world-class university," Ward said.
Rep. Cory Mason, D-Milwaukee, who voted against the measure, said he did so because it did not provide any money in the form of grants or financial aid packages to students. He added that the measure would “decimate” United Council of UW Students by removing requirements that students must contribute to mandatory refundable fees, which fund the organization.
Dylan Jambrek, United Council of UW Students government relations director, said his organization was pleased with what would be the first two-year tuition freeze in the history of the UW System. However, he said the rest of the package the Committee passed was a massive cut to the UW System and “a destroying of the student voice.”
“So, what started out the day as probably a relatively good package from the governor ended the day as being absolutely catastrophic for students,” Jambrek said.
The Legislature will vote on the budget in June.
Abraham Lincoln welcomed dozens to sit on his lap throughout the past few days, as University of Wisconsin graduates celebrated their formative years as student badgers during commencement weekend.
Flocks of families and friends arrived in Madison during the past week for UW’s three days of spring commencement ceremonies, which began Friday, May 17 and continued through the weekend.
After an introductory speech from Interim Chancellor David Ward, who will also be leaving the university with this graduating class, the graduates heard from television series “Workaholics” star and 2003 UW graduate, Anders Holm.
Holm, in the commencement speech, shared his advice for graduates, his past experiences on campus and his own love for the university.
Despite noting that commencement speeches are his own “shortcoming,” Holm brought levity to the occasion. Holm introduced himself by describing his ideal entrance-- a scene of “50 twerk babes twerking it” for him, a fog machine and groovy music.
However, Holm paired his jovial nature with some meaningful advice for the graduates, suggesting students begin a period of self-reflection in order to find both their strengths and shortfalls.
“To get what you want out of life, all you can really do is find out who you are, and do that,” Holm said.
By thinking about who you are, it will help you figure out where you best fit in and what you are worth, Holm said.
Despite emphasizing that everybody is “unique,” Holm said being unique and being special are different, noting that “special” is something people have to work for.
Holm, who pursued a career in entertainment writing after graduating from UW with a degree in history, reminded graduates of the hard work and determination that goes into achieving one's goals.
“You have to be able to handle rejection -- just get used to it. In fact, love rejection,” Holm said.
Holm emphasized the importance of work ethic, advising students to “always say yes” to extra tasks from their bosses, even if they do not think they can take them on.
However, his tips were not without comedic relief and awareness of the more fun things in life.
“Be prepared to work harder than anybody else for what you want, but always take time to watch cartoons,” Holm said.
Holm ended his points on a more serious note, encouraging curiosity and advising students to always ask questions and “want to know things.”
Holm concluded along the same thread he began—promoting self-awareness and self-acceptance.
“Consider what other people think of you, but don’t be afraid of what they think of you,” Holm said.
Ending on a lighter note, Holm concluded his commencement speech with a quote from actor Jamie Foxx, which he admitted made no sense and had no relation to his advice.
However, according to Holm, “no matter what you say, if you say it slowly, in a cool robe, then it will sound more smarter.
University of Wisconsin students would see a two-year tuition freeze, and the UW System would get less funds than originally proposed, under changes Gov. Scott Walker made to his proposed budget Wednesday.
The changes, including a $94.4 million decrease from the $181 million Walker originally proposed, were outlined in a letter from Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch to the Legislature's finance committee. The letter came weeks after lawmakers learned of $648 million in reserves at UW System, $414 million of which came from tuition.
The total decrease in funds from the original proposal is $94.4 million, although $65.7 million comes from the state general funds that pay for areas like education. UW System would now see an $87 million funding increase during the next two years.
"The Walker administration is saddened that UW System did not show leadership during a fiscal crisis, and instead made the burden of a public higher education heavier while stockpiling cash," Huebsch said in the letter.
The Legislature has to approve the changes Walker proposed, although Republicans have called for funding decreases, and both parties support the tuition freeze.
UW System Board of Regents President Brent Smith emphasized in a statement UW System officials have been "good stewards" of resources, although he said a "formal policy" on future reserves is needed.
Hours before news of the reserves came out, UW System President Kevin Reilly had called for a 2 percent tuition increase, which would have been the lowest increase in recent history.
"We share the governor's interest in keeping college affordable and tuition low," Reilly said. "While UW tuition is already lower than many peer colleges and universities, a two-year tuition freeze will send the right message to Wisconsin students and families."
UW System institutions will shift $42 million in other funds to cover what UW System would lose in revenues from the tuition freeze, according to the statement.
A Marquette Law School poll released Tuesday showed 76 percent of the public supported a tuition freeze.
Dylan Jambrek, government relations director for United Council of UW Students, said his organization is thrilled with Walker’s proposed tuition freeze.
“It will give relief to families and students who are turning increasingly to loan debt,” Jambrek said.
While Jambrek said he is pleased with the tuition freeze, he said Walker's budget changes are disappointing. He said he would rather see Walker using money to increase financial aid.
“Students were charged tuition increases that weren’t really necessary, so putting it back into financial aid would really return that money to students," Jambrek said.
Tenzin Gyatso’s trademark chuckle echoed through Madison’s Overture Center for the Arts Wednesday, during what he, the 14th Dalai Lama, described as a “peaceful atmosphere” to simply “talk with another human being.”
The 78-year-old Tibetan holy figure, who was adorned in his Buddhist monk robes and a baseball cap, was joined by distinguished individuals in fields ranging from economics, neuroscience, journalism and psychology in two panel discussions on global health and sustainable well-being.
A sold-out crowd welcomed the series titled “Change Your Mind, Change the World,” moderated by Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and science journalist, and Arianna Huffington, founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post. The Center for Investigating Healthy Minds hosted the event in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin’s Global Health Institute.
In addition to his standard role as a teacher and professor of wisdom, the Dalai Lama took the part of a student, posing questions, and attempting to glean new insight from all of the panelists, who updated him on their research and areas of study.
The panelists, most of who shared stories of previous encounters with the Dalai Lama and cited him as an inspiration to their life work, addressed global health in the individual, regional and planetary context, emphasizing the connection between mental and physical well-being—an area closely related to the Dalai Lama’s teachings.
“There’s no more important conversation going on in this planet than the conversation that has been going on at this conference,” Huffington said in an introduction to the afternoon panel.
The Dalai Lama, who has been touring Madison since Monday, shared his commentary between speakers, responding to the presentations of his peers and adding his personal insight. He emphasized the importance of Buddhist psychology, a factor of spiritually he finds separate from faith and the Buddhist religion.
After receiving clarification on the connotation of the word ‘"secular" from English economist Lord Richard Layard, the Dalai Lama said the word is not “anti-religion." He concluded that if people, from kindergarten to the university, are educated and trained in “secular ethics,” widespread happiness can be achieved.
Layard, who said the Dalai Lama’s words had previously inspired him, cited the idea of secularism in naming the two fundamental aspects necessary for a more peaceful world.
“There basically are two facts that we need to bring together: Everybody would like to be happy, and, two, each human being is equally important,” Layard said. “And if we can get everybody to accept that secular ‘every human being is important’ then we can try and create as much happiness in the world that we can. And we have to get to that point without mentioning the deity. That is what is essential to the secular morality.”
According to the Dalai Lama, the only path to instilling such “secular morality” is through education and the training of the human mind.
Richard Davidson, founder and chair of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center, reiterated the idea that mental health and focus of the human mind is connected with the happiness and physical health of the individual and the community.
A push for further international focus on mental health was a common thread among the panelists, many of whom cited mental illness as a root cause in disparity, unhappiness and economic inefficiency. Huffington even questioned a connection between “burned out human beings and burning out the planet.”
The Dalai Lama agreed with such a notion, restating his role as an advocate for education on such issues.
Emphasizing the power and complexity of the brain and its impact on the body and community, the Dalai Lama said, “the proper way to deal with the human mind, is with the mind itself.” Secular training on the importance of human connection, altruism, kindness and mindfulness from a very young age is the solution to world peace, he added.
“I always stress the importance of education, not faith, education,” he said, adding the need to systematically educate people.
“There is sufficient material to educate people. I think there is possibility,” the Dalai Lama said. “Better world means more compassionate world…then peaceful world.”
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