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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Guest Column: WISPIRG responds to staffing concerns

We would like to address the Daily Cardinal Editorial Board article titled ""Students should staff WISPIRG"" published in the Thursday, December 10, 2009 issue. Many of the statements made in this article are misleading and appear to have been taken out of context.

Firstly, WISPIRG does not have ""preferential treatment"" over any other GSSF groups, as the process for obtaining contract status is open to all GSSF groups. It is true that WISPIRG is currently the only group with contract status, but we are also the only group that has applied for it. Applying for contract status is a long and rigorous process composed of filling out a detailed application, presenting that application to be voted on by two separate boards made up of both students and administration, and finally sent to the chancellor for the final approval. As for the critiques on WISPIRG's structural integrity, these are both uneducated and irresponsible. It is correct to say that WISPIRG uses a substantial amount of our overall budget to hire non-student, professional staff members. It is also correct that the members of WISPIRG believe that the effectiveness of our organization would be compromised if these staff positions were filled by full-time students, as we agree with the editorial board's statement that, ""…groups would certainly grow and be able to accomplish more with paid, full-time, non-student staff.""

WISPIRG has decided to use most of our segregated fees for hiring professional staff in order to provide members, or any student interested, with the specialized skills on how to effectively run and win grass-root campaigns. We believe in this system of delegating our funds, because full-time students do not have the training, experience, or time needed to effectively train other students on how to organize grassroots campaigns and establish meaningful and beneficial relationships with state and federal legislators. For example, last spring WISPIRG was part of a national campaign working against the predatory practices that credit card companies were applying on college students. Because of the relationships maintained by our executive director, Senator Herb Kohl contacted WISPIRG to put on a joint conference for raising support on this issue; Senator Kohl knew to contact us because our non-student staff member has been a constant voice for students in the capitol for the past ten years. Full-time students are in-and-out of the UW system in about four to five years; therefore, these students are physically unable to maintain constant long-term relationships that are necessary to give students our voice on both the state and national level.

Our staff is the reason why WISPIRG appeals to so many students, as they provide the UW campus with professional trainings and opportunities to develop our political advocacy. The fact remains that last year, after students voted on both hiring our staff members and the specific campaigns we wished to run, WISPIRG attracted 200 interns and 350 UW student volunteers. Not one of those students was disappointed that our small portion of segregated fees was going toward paying trained professional staff and not directly back into students' pockets; these students were excited about the work they had accomplished and the skills they had acquired. WISPIRG puts more emphasis and thought into the student aspect of our organization than the Daily Cardinal editorial board may have noticed. We have made the decision time and time again to support the model that has shown to provide the best experience to students and the most victories for the student public interest.


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