A local film centered on the sudden suspension of 25 academic programs at the University of Wisconsin-Superior in 2017 will premiere Saturday, Oct. 31, on Amazon Prime, three years after they were announced.

“Outsourced: The New Wisconsin Idea,” is the passion project of UWS alumni Megan McGarvey and Katie Lindow.

“What we wanted was to bring people who were in the heart of this event and really make a time capsule of the event and show them what the experience was,” said McGarvey, who lives in Superior. “All universities across the country can really benefit from seeing: ‘Hey, if you’re an administrator and you’re thinking of taking this course of action, this is the collateral damage that you will come across.’ This is what might happen.”

The story unfolds starting with the announcement of the suspensions to media, students and faculty Oct. 31, 2017. It incorporates interviews, protest footage, media pieces and video from campus meetings. Three years later, the filmmakers said, it remains relevant.

“It’s still important because while the classes are gone, we’re still losing funding to the UW-System,” said Lindow, of Duluth. “We’re still seeing education gutted across the country. It’s not just a UWS piece — it’s a national problem.”

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Faculty fought to retool some UWS programs and bring others back, they said, but the way the suspensions were made led to a lack of trust on campus.

“UWS is such a great institution and such a wonderful place to get your education, but we also need to know that it is not forever,” McGarvey said. “If we do not actively buy in and actively keep an eye on our education system, it can easily go away, and that’s what Oct. 31 of 2017 really taught me and so many seniors when we were graduating that year. I think it’s extremely relevant, especially now because we need to understand that things don’t just stay for the sake of staying. You have to support it.”

The documentary’s first screening was in July 2019. It was selected for last year’s Catalyst Content Film Festival in Duluth and has been shown at a number of universities since then. Self-releasing the film to Amazon Prime allows a wider audience to view the story.

“It was the best and easiest choice for us to get it in front of a lot of eyeballs,” Lindow said. “At this point it’s going to live there and that’s where it’s going to be streamed.”

Katie Lindow, left, and Megan McGarvey produced the documentary film "Outsourced: The New Wisconsin Idea," in response to program suspensions in 2017 at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Katie Lindow, left, and Megan McGarvey produced the documentary film "Outsourced: The New Wisconsin Idea," in response to program suspensions in 2017 at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

They may receive some revenue if the documentary hits a certain number of streams and rentals, but that wasn’t the reason for releasing the film. Lindow has a marketing job at a local university; McGarvey produces commercials for a Twin Ports news station.

“We put it up there not expecting to make money on it,” Lindow said. “We haven’t had that as a goal from the beginning. We made this project as a passion project. Picking Amazon Prime is just the accessibility of it.”

Although critical of the lack of communication between administration and the faculty and students in 2017, the filmmakers said their piece is a love letter to the university. And it’s a testament to the education they received.

“We can do this. We, two women with two laptops, multiple moves, a lot of passion, money from indiegogo but not thousands upon thousands of dollars. We were able to produce something because of our passion for the university itself and because we generally care,” McGarvey said.

Lindow called it “the most DIY kind of way we could have done it, but that’s what we learned at UWS. We had some challenges come at us. We adapted; we overcame.”

The resulting work will now be available to a national audience.

"It’s been our baby, kind of," Lindow said. "It’s a relief to be done with it and get it off to distribution."

Although they've received a lot of feedback from the film, the most important reviews came from the people who were in front of the lens.

"Being able to tell another person’s story is such a privilege," McGarvey said. "Everybody I've shown it to who was part of the film said, 'You did it justice.' That is the most you can ask for."

She plans to open a bottle of champagne on Halloween to celebrate the film's release. The next day, the pair will start filming a new project together for a studio in Duluth.

"Even though an ending’s happening, a new beginning’s already starting and I get to work with Katie again and I’m excited," McGarvey said.

When contacted for the story, UWS administration had no comment.

UWS documentary debuts at Duluth festival