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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, June 22, 2024

WISPIRG essential to UW campus

I was upset to read a recent Cardinal editorial depicting WISPIRG's staffing infrastructure as a misuse of segregated fees. The editorial overlooked several important points, including WISPIRG's history and methods of success and the nature of the segregated fee process in this university.

Having worked closely with WISPIRG, I have seen how well the organization is run and how its internal dynamics easily translate to student victories. One of the most important programs WISPIRG runs is its intern program. Interns often account for a majority of victories within the organization and are integrated into campaigns through the training and guidance provided by staff. Without this program, which almost all student leaders within WISPIRG were once a part of, the organization would be left with little to no leaders and would be severely restricted in carrying out meaningful campaigns like Hunger and Homelessness, the Transportation Campaign and the Textbook Campaign. Since staff run the intern program, without them, the core of WISPIRG would be in trouble.

So why not just have a student do it? Well, for anyone who has ever participated in or observed the intern program in action, they would know that it is an extremely time-intensive and in-depth process (especially with nearly 100 interns). The reason the staff run the program is because they are grassroots organizing experts and because they have the time to give interns the support and direction they need to succeed. WISPIRG would be hard-pressed to find a student who had the kind of time and commitment to fully invest in this program (much less find another one after the first student graduated). Despite the time and effort requirement of the intern program, it is only one duty, among many equally significant ones, that compose WISPIRG's staff responsibilities.

Next, the segregated fee system is designed to invest student money in the programs that most benefit students. This has been a time-tested method on this campus and is one that is especially effective because it is run by students. WISPIRG has been able to prove that a nonstudent staff is the most beneficial to the 42,000 students on this campus to the Student Service Finance Committee, contract advisory boards and even the chancellor. Thus, if students are most benefited by spending segregated fees on a professional staff, then that's what should be done. By disputing this claim, one is disputing the foundation of our seg fee system: that students should decide how to spend students' money for the maximum benefit of students.

Finally, you simply can't argue with success. WISPIRG has been an installation of activism, student power and successful campaigning for decades. Without WISPIRG, this campus would not be where it is today in social, environmental and economic progress. Staff are an integral part of that success and provide the sustainability that so many campus organizations lack. WISPIRG has clearly found a system that works, and that fact is not disputed by the chancellor, by the SSFC nor by the thousands of students who benefit from WISPIRG's programs and campaigns.

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—Jonah Zinn

Chair Academic Affairs-ASM

Student Labor Action Coalition


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