Sarah Useche and Taylor Kilgore
Simpson Street Free Press editors applaud the Wisconsin State Journal editorial published on April 5. We challenge and question the subsequent guest column written by Allen Ebert and the Madison Central Consortium Project also published in the State Journal. Both op-ed pieces address the future of the Madison College downtown site.
It is our position that south Madison badly needs a college campus. The bold plan proposed by MATC president Dr. Jack Daniels III and approved by the school’s board shows vision and courage. To be clear, what south Madison needs is a large campus facility focused on academic programs and quality access to higher education.
As south Madison residents and young leaders of color, we see the long-term financial feasibility of our first—and only—college campus as the most important issue in this discussion.
There are many arts facilities in downtown Madison. And Madison’s downtown is thriving. But there has never been a college campus in south Madison.
If Mr. Ebert and the Central Consortium Project can guarantee that their proposal will fund our college without the need for major fundraising, then their idea is worth discussing. Otherwise, the April 5 State Journal editorial is spot on: whatever development takes place at the downtown site must provide a stable, guaranteed revenue stream for a new south Madison College.
Mr. Ebert says the downtown building, the former Madison Central High School, was “gifted” to Madison College years ago. What Mr. Ebert might not recognize is that we, the residents of south Madison, were among those doing the gifting. We too pay taxes. We too fund our area’s public facilities. These public facilities are usually concentrated downtown and are almost never sited in south Madison.
Simpson Street Free Press strongly supports the local arts community, and we consider arts education core curriculum. We believe the Central Consortium Arts Project is worthy. Mr. Ebert should recognize, however, that Madison’s fundraising activities never take place in a vacuum. Fundraising for a new downtown arts facility will inevitably divert money, time, and resources from other important projects—including those in south Madison.
We agree with Mr. Ebert. This should not be an either/or proposition, and it should be a win-win for all concerned. But we also agree with the Wisconsin State Journal. In this case, the most important consideration is the scope and sustainability of a south Madison campus. This community—all of us—benefits when young people have access to education. A new Madison College campus is the most concrete proposal we’ve seen to address the unacceptable gaps and disparities that define our community.
Our young people and our technical college district deserve nothing less.