UW Oshkosh is holding a Free School event promoting environmental awareness in Sage Hall on April 23 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The Student Environmental Awareness Coalition is running the event, and is offering free workshops, skill shops, lectures and children’s activities focusing on environmental awareness, green living and personal health.
UWO student Ian VanRossum said he thinks sustainability should be taught at all levels of education.
“We can kind of hear about it in middle school and high school, then we are in college and we kind of focused on our own world,” VanRossum said. “You kind of forget about how much harm we actually do to the environment.”
UWO assistant geography professor Elizabeth Barron said she is teaching a workshop at the event called “Reframing Your Work Life Balance.”
“Too often we overemphasize paid work at the expense of these other really important forms of work,” Barron said. “The workshop is about helping people see that in their own lives. It’s especially important to students because they struggle to balance their commitments to school, paid work, extra-cirriculars, personal life.”
Barron said she is part of a research group called the Community Economies Collective and they work on rethinking and envisioning new forms of the economy that are more ethical and sustainable.
“It is important to people because so often we get caught up in an idea of work that is based on the idea that the only ‘real work’ that we do is what someone else pays us for,” Barron said.
Sossina Chirhart, a UWO student involved in organizing the event, said she expects there to be over 100 people attending, including attendees, volunteers and workshop leaders.
“The event is for everyone, community and students alike, both kids and adults,” Chirhart said.
Chirhart said each of the teachers heading the classes are volunteers and giving their time for this event.
“They are covering their workshop supplies and any other expenses themselves and what you end up discovering is that free education is something most people can get behind,” Chirhart said. “All of the people offering things at the Free School were more than willing to help.”
Chirhart said this event can be a bridge to bring the UWO campus and the surrounding community together.
“There are new experiences being offered at the Free School that are not available on this campus,” Chirhart said.
Chirhart said the SEAC decided to put on this event because they recognize some people cannot afford a proper education.
“There is a social injustice where some people can’t get education because of who they are intrinsically, or their life situation,” Chirhart said. “We wanted to offer everyone the chance to learn without cost and provide a safe place to do that learning in.”
Chirhart said she hopes to hold this event two to three times a year in the future, and hopes to grow to offering one free class a year for students on campus.
Jenny Goldade, a senior UWO journalism major, said she thinks lowering tuition so more people can afford college is a better idea than eliminating tuition entirely.
“Giving everyone free tuition might cause issues for space, like there’s already issues for people getting into classes,” Goldade said.
Melissa Albright, another UWO student, said tuition shouldn’t be eliminated and said paying for tuition makes students more accountable for their education.
“If you are going for free then it is like ‘Oh it doesn’t matter, I’m just not going to go to class’,” Albright said.
VanRossum said he is against colleges being free and it should be incentive-based.
“If you have a 4.0 in high school it’s either free or you get ‘x’ amount off,” VanRossum said. “If you have a 3.5, you know just a scale like that cut off point at 2.0…. That’s probably a little more realistic to do funding wise and it gets you better motivation to finish school.”
Barron said she knows that there is no such thing as free education because of the expenses involved in running an institution.
“I would love to live in a society that valued higher education highly enough to fund it properly and make it tuition-free,” Barron said.
Barron said she is excited to meet new and interesting people at the Free School event.
“I am expecting to have the opportunity to talk about material I am very passionate about,” Barron said. “[I] hope that they will get something out of the experience.”
As for the idea of colleges having free tuition, Chirhart said they try to stay politically unbiased as an organization, but still believe the option to get and receive an education should be free.
“The bottom line is that everyone deserves the opportunity to receive a free education and access to high education,” Chirhart said.