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UWS students plan protest of program suspensions

University of Wisconsin-Superior students are planning a peaceful protest outside the Chancellor's Ball today to oppose the university's recent suspension of more than two dozen academic programs in October.

The peaceful protest will be from 5:30-7:30 p.m. outside the banquet hall at UWS' Yellowjacket Union, where the Chancellor's Ball is taking place.

University officials said in October that the school wanted to streamline its offerings to reduce dropouts and have more students graduate in a timely fashion. Students already enrolled in suspended programs can complete their degrees, but no new students will be accepted. The programs were targeted for suspension based on low enrollment and poor completion rates, according to UWS. Five percent of UWS students are in one of the affected programs. An online petition opposing the program suspensions has gathered more than 5,300 signatures.

"The way that they've handled this whole situation has been disrespectful, and they've lacked transparency. We just want to keep spreading the word and keep putting the pressure on," said protest organizer Emily Koch, a junior at UWS.

UWS administration couldn't be reached for comment on Friday.

Students plan to hand out candy during the protest with a message attached encouraging UWS Chancellor Renee Wachter to reconsider the suspensions. The candy is part of the protest's Halloween theme because the administration announced the suspension on Oct. 31, Koch said.

"We're not there to undermine the chancellor or the event at all. We're just there to spread the word and make people aware of what's been happening on campus," she said.

Although she's not in one of the affected programs, Koch said her friends are in the suspended art therapy program and are "deeply, deeply affected by this."

During a student forum with administration following UWS' suspension announcement, art therapy students said they were attending UWS because they would be able to receive both their bachelor's and master's degrees in art therapy. Now that art therapy is suspended, they can't continue to the graduate program. Art therapy is a specialized program that few Midwest universities offer, and undergraduate students said they were concerned that they will now have to attend a more expensive private school for their master's degrees.

Students also said at the forum that the decision to suspend the programs lacked transparency and broke their trust in university administration. Superior Mayor Jim Paine, an alumnus of UWS, has criticized university officials for their handling of the decision, and has said that he and the community should have been consulted before the decision to suspend the programs.

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