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Sunday, March 1, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 20.0° F  Fair
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UW-Madison faculty march in protest to Capitol citing concerns about recruitment

Hundreds of UW-Madison professors, lecturers and teaching assistants had a new chant to shout as they made their way down Bascom Hill to State Street Tuesday afternoon: "UW united will never be defeated!"

What started out as a crowd of around 150 milling around Bascom Hall's iconic Abraham Lincoln statue swelled in size as the group streamed down Bascom Hill. Faculty and staff wielded signs reading, "Starving students hungry for justice!" and asking, "Grad students have it easy at the poverty level?"

At the head of Library Mall, the protestors paused for a brief speech from PROFS Steering Committee President Joe Salmons, before continuing down State Street to join the bigger rally outside the state Capitol.

"It is our responsibility that this institution is protected, to make sure we can go forward as a strong institution," said Salmons. "This is an effort to prevents us from sifting and winnowing!"

PROFS was one of multiple groups, including UW Faculty Organizing for Change, that joined the Teaching Assistants' Association in its third "teach-out."

"[The TAA] have really been the conscience of this movement from the start," commended Prof. Greg Downey, head of the Journalism Department.

Downey-who had no classes Tuesday-said it was especially important for university faculty members with "more flexibility" to join the rally Tuesday, now that hundreds of local teachers have returned to the classroom.

In a press release, TAA called this support a "critical turning point," adding that the presence of those walking out Tuesday "shows that opposition to the bill is widespread across the campus."

One professor, Martine Debaisieux of the French and Italian departments, pointed out although she considered the bill a "catastrophe" for TA's rights, losing TA benefits could also harm the university.

"We're very concerned about recruitment," Debaisieux said. "The university worries it will not be able to attract grad students."

Despite good intentions, campus protests can come at a cost.

"Anytime we don't have the opportunity to meet as a class-whether that's a snow day or teach-out… even swine flue on campus-any time there's something that stands in the way, those of us who have highly structured classes really have difficult trying to figure out how it will all work," said Katy Culver, a lecturer in the Journalism Department.

Culver says she has been fortunate enough to "respect a wide range of responses," filling in to teach TA labs as needed. She added that although the protests can be disruptive now, they're better than a prolonged strike later.

As far as Salmon is concerned, for the university system, the worst may be yet to come.

"If you know people who aren't upset, tell them this is just the beginning," warned Salmons. "If you think this budget bill is destructive, you tell them-wait until they see the actual budget!"

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