Letter to the Editor: Councilmember decries attendance for ‘A’

Feb. 25, 2015

My name is Stephanie Abbott.  I am 24 years old and I graduated from UW-Whitewater in May 2013.  In November 2011, I was appointed to (and continue to hold a position with) the Whitewater Common Council, a position in which I represent many UW-Whitewater students.

I am a conservative. I have always voted for Republicans. I did vote, and would vote again, for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.  That does not mean I am mandated to agree with every proposal he makes.  That does mean, however, that in the event I do disagree with a proposal, I am going to pursue that opinion while it is still a proposal and before it becomes law.  At UW-Whitewater, I was encouraged to know and understand issues from every angle and to seize the opportunity to have dialogues about those issues.  As the budget proposal works its way through our state government, I would encourage every student at UW-Whitewater to engage in those same dialogues.

Last week, I made a controversial decision to speak at an event in opposition to a specific item in Governor Scott Walker’s budget.  For those of you who do not know, it was controversial not only in that the event was to offer specific criticism of a political proposal, but also because one of UW-Whitewater’s own professors offered extra credit to students to attend this event.  I do not, in any way, condone the issuance of extra credit for attendance at a political event of any nature—Democrat, Republican, or otherwise.  You should not receive a “bonus” for knowing and understanding what is happening in the world around you and your grade should in no way be affected by whether or not you agree with your professors on political issues.  I was in classrooms during the Act 10 discussion and I have felt the tension those situations place on students.  It is not right and it is not fair.   I, as an alumni and elected official, cannot and will not be used as evidence to support the issuance of extra credit for participation in what may have been a non-partisan event, but what was certainly an event presenting only a single side of a single issue.

I articulated my thoughts at the event, because we are fortunate enough to live in a country and a community in which differing opinions are embraced, acknowledged, and encouraged.  I seek only to encourage our legislators to use those same investigative tools I gained at UW-Whitewater to offer alternatives to a budget I believe would negatively impact my constituents in Whitewater.  I offered the following statement, “UW-Whitewater is an investment, and you, the students, are the return on that investment.  UW-Whitewater is not a Democratic school or a Republican school; it is a school of students empowered to voice their opinions, and who can learn to articulate those opinions in a variety of areas.” I maintain the truth in that statement.

Apathy gets you nowhere in life, but your choice to participate in the political process should be because you recognize its importance, not because you want an “A.”

Stephanie Abbott
Whitewater Common Councilmember