High price tag of WISPIRG leads to ‘nay’ vote

Students+present+a+budget+request+to+the+Student+Activities+Board.

Ryan Spoehr

WISPRIG volunteer Kevin Kingsbury, far left, presents a budget proposal to the Student Activities Board on Friday, April 22.

Ryan Spoehr, News editor

After more than two hours of intense debate, the Student Activities Board voted down a proposed allocation of $72,772 to the Wisconsin Public Interest and Research Group (WISPIRG). The decision likely means WISPIRG will not have a presence on campus next year.

The group was established as a club last fall and funded through grants. With increasing student participation, WISPIRG members had hoped to transition into a student organization funded through student activity fees.

After interning with WISPIRG, Jacob Weigandt, Student Senate president, saw a value in having a chapter at Madison Area Technical College. He sought the group out in order to assist with a textbook affordability campaign. While on campus, WISPIRG has worked directly with students on a number of other campaigns including new voter registration.

Madison College student Mindy Betts also helped run a hunger and homelessness campaign on campus after joining WISPIRG in the fall. Betts saw great value as well in WISPIRG as a club and was in full support of them becoming an organization.

“It gives students a really great outlet to work on issues they care about,” Betts said.

 

The Student Activities Board showed overwhelming support and appreciation for WISPIRG and even applauded their efforts at one point during the meeting. However, there was concern about the amount of funding and where money was going.

Some felt that the majority of the funds in the proposed budget were going to WISPIRG, instead of directly benefiting Madison College students. Thus, making it difficult to keep track of or regulate where funds and expenditures would end up.

Funding was recently cut for WISPIRG at the University of Wisconsin Madison because students were not the primary beneficiaries of the funds.

Board members weren’t the only ones torn on the issue. During an April 14 student senate meeting, the main topic of discussion was passing a resolution to support the funding of WISPIRG. To prevent the vote from happening, three senators walked out of the meeting, effectively eliminating quorum.

Katrina Simyab, the vice president of communications, was one of the senators to walk out. She felt that WISPIRG was asking for too much during a time of cutbacks, and was also concerned that students were not overseeing the funds.

With a full quorum on April 21, the student senate passed a resolution to support the funding of WISPIRG. Jennifer Johnson, the vice president of finance and administration, voted against the resolution and said that many senators weren’t clear on what they were voting on.

“Every member of the senate is in favor of keeping WISPIRG on campus, however, if you ask every member, seven are opposed to funding the $70,000 and six are in favor of it.” Johnson said.

Another issue that surfaced during the board meeting was the similarity between student senate and WISPIRG. Student Senate historically has been the advocating voice for Madison College.

“It makes me a little cranky that a new student group like this can come in and do all this work and our group that has been here for years is not touching into what they are doing,” said Cody Shingler, peer coordinator at Madison College. “What they do is something we could already be doing, but we are not.”

Madison College Vice President of Student Development Keith Cornille also explained that to avoid conflict the student activities board bylaws outline that there cannot be several organizations that are similar.

Jordan Less, a WISPIRG campus organizer, was clearly upset by the vote to decline funding. Even though it did not turn out in his favor, Less said he would not change anything about his experience at Madison College.

“We worked to reach other groups and we had a great time doing it,” Less said. “It was great working with the students, faculty and administrators.”