Thursday, February 17, 2011


There were student rallies at the U-W Eau Claire campus yesterday and today. (Today's followed a walk-out). Many schools are closed for today as public employees have called in sick. 10-12,000 people came to protest Walker's "budget repair" bill, that includes taking away collective bargaining rights of public employees in the state where unions were formed. I'm hearing reports that yesterday there were 30,000. The last time so many people descended on Madison to protest, it was the Vietnam War.

I am so proud of our students who are speaking up in front of crowds, celebrating their wonderful education at the K-12 and university levels. My whole building is abuzz with collective, angry energy. There is a feeling that we're all in this together.

See the article below, pointing out that the State had a surplus when Gov. Walker arrived a month ago. Now we have a deficit:

“Wisconsin is managing better -- or at least it had been managing better until Walker took over. Despite shortfalls in revenue following the economic downturn that hit its peak with the Bush-era stock market collapse, the state has balanced budgets, maintained basic services and high-quality schools, and kept employment and business development steadier than the rest of the country. It has managed so well, in fact, that the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau recently released a memo detailing how the state will end the 2009-2011 budget biennium with a budget surplus.” In its Jan. 31 memo to legislators on the condition of the state’s budget, the Fiscal Bureau determined that the state will end the year with a balance of $121.4 million. [evidence is provided in document] ... To the extent that there is an imbalance -- Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit -- it is not because of a drop in revenues or increases in the cost of state employee contracts, benefits or pensions. It is because Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January. If the Legislature were simply to rescind Walker’s new spending schemes -- or delay their implementation until they are offset by fresh revenues -- the “crisis” would not exist.”

Monday, February 14, 2011

public employees

Dear Governor Walker,

As you work hard to balance the state budget, please consider this:

In 2010 alone, I taught 216 University of Wisconsin students to read, write, and think critically and creatively. These were face-to-face, writing intensive courses. I knew every student's name and gave individual feedback throughout the semester. These students will soon be the new work force in the state, the next teachers and engineers and entrepreneurs.

How much is that worth to you?

speaking up

I teach a course on human rights and another on women's literature that is themed "finding your voice." We look at writers who find their voices as they speak up about issues of importance to us all. We consider who does so more effectively and why. I love seeing my students engaged with issues of human rights. I love hearing how they've shared what they are learning with their peers.

I do not wish to be an armchair humanitarian. In graduate school I managed to keep a foot in both the academic and social justice (specifically, refugee resettlement) worlds. And while my current position has allowed me to speak about human rights to a wide audience of learners, I miss having that on-the-ground experience. I do not wish to talk about speaking out without speaking out myself. As a first step, in the last two weeks I've emailed or called 6 government officials on various issues. (As a side note, I had a lovely conversation with Sen. Kathleen Vinhout about the value of education in the state of Wisconsin--preaching to the choir, given her support, but important and pleasant nonetheless.)

In grad school, my refugee resettlement colleagues wondered why on earth I was getting a degree in poetry. My MFA classmates considered my work to be a more interesting side job than waitressing. Now I look back on these interests coming together and I keep recalling that wonderful quote in the biblical book of Esther: it may be for such a time as this that you are here. I have the tremendous feeling that I am preparing for something.

Friday, February 4, 2011


More hope: a picture of Egyptian Christians forming a human shield around praying Muslims during the protests yesterday.


At the start of this week I had the pleasure of visiting Georgtown, Kentucky, which boasted friendly people, a lovely campus, and 45 degree weather. Even though my trip was work-related and I had to be mentally on-the-ball, I returned to Wisconsin feeling refreshed from having gotten away. My parents in Connecticut are getting blasted with snow; my in-laws in Chicago are getting blasted with snow; it was zero degrees here yesterday--and yet, despite all of that, I had my first glimpse of spring--

I heard a bird singing.

The first bird of the year! I have a witness, too: a colleague crunching with me across the sunlit parking lot, getting ready for another day of classes. We both stopped in our tracks and just listened. Joy.