Opinion

Cardinal View: Editorial Board's Spring Retrospective

Spring 2017 has been a tumultuous and eventful semester in Madison.

Image By: Courtsey of UW-Madison

As the spring semester comes to an end, The Daily Cardinal Editorial Board reflects on the past few months with a series of short recaps.

"Problem with Whiteness" class persists

UW-Madison’s spring course guide included an African languages and literature class called “The Problem of Whiteness,” which drew backlash from many state Republican legislators in the state Capitol. Despite the outcry and national attention before the semester started, the class went on as planned without any trouble.

“I think the class was initially controversial because people wanted to see the university cancel the class. Once the university stood behind my professor and refused to cancel the course, the public outcry was unnecessary,” Lauryn Seibold, a mixed-race student who took the course, explained.

The course was not only important to defend on grounds of academic freedom, but because the class and other courses like it that delve into the nuances of privilege and bias are necessary in addressing campus climate issues surrounding diversity and inclusion.

“If more students take courses like this one, the campus will feel more inclusive to students from all walks of life, and a real change can be made,” Seibold said.

Intervention in ASM elections

In this year’s student government election, an outside group, Turning Point USA, provided support and campaign materials to two candidates who ran on the Badger Freedom Caucus slate.

Turning Point and the candidates in question happen to be conservative. However, whether the unfair influence comes from a conservative or liberal group, we take issue with this interference.

Student voter turnout is already low in Associated Students of Madison elections, typically hovering around 9 percent, and when an outside group interferes in a campaign, the small percentage of those participating in the election could be voting based on expensive and noticeable campaign materials, rather than the candidates themselves.

ASM currently does not have any rules related to outside groups providing resources for candidates. This needs to change, and the way to do that is to make a bylaw ensuring candidates are impressing students with their qualifications alone.

Members of ASM are called representatives—and that is what they should be, representative of students.

Travel ban impacts university

Amid widespread national backlash to President Donald Trump’s late-January executive order on immigration, the UW-Madison community made its voices heard, rallying behind those affected.

According to the university, 115 students were directly affected by Trump’s executive order. Reaction in the wake of its signing demonstrated the campus’ support for those impacted both at UW-Madison and around the world.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank joined with multiple organizations in “calling for a reconsideration” of the order days after it was signed. Chants of “stand up, fight back,” and “no ban, no wall,” reverberated across Bascom Hill on an early February morning during a student protest. The next day, in Janesville, Wis., a crowd of over 1,000 protesters picketed outside House Speaker Paul Ryan’s constituent office, dwarfing any demonstration that the Janesville police had ever seen. And just over two weeks later, the city of Madison signed onto an amicus brief opposing the ban, at the time joining more than 30 municipalities across the nation.

At the same time, with growing anti-immigrant sentiment around the country, UW-Madison also saw a 14 percent increase in international student applications. While high tensions still certainly persist, UW-Madison has remained a supportive campus environment for those students affected.

Political activity after inauguration

Our spring semester began amid a wave of social unrest across the country and on our own campus, but with it came an invigorated political activism. On Jan. 21, an estimated 100,000 people marched to the Capitol at the Madison Women’s March in protest of the Trump administration. In the days before, after and during the march, the focused engagement and active anger were tangible in our community and on our campus. The vigor toward change was unlike any we’ve seen on our campus in recent years as students rallied and spoke out against the racist, sexist, homophobic, islamophobic and xenophobic rhetoric of the new administration. We’d be remiss not to take a moment to remember the things we learned, the emotions we felt and let them push us forward with renewed energy to fight oppression on out campus, in our country. A protester told The Daily Cardinal that day she was marching because she can’t pretend as if a Trump presidency is normal. Let’s remember her words and continue to fight against the normalization of hatred and complacency toward systematic subjugation.

Attacks on vital health services

As a liberal hub in an otherwise bright red state, liberal Madisonians’ battle with a Republican-controlled state and federal government heightened this winter when President Donald Trump attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act while simultaneously undermining Planned Parenthood. This put the mental and physical health of millions of people in jeopardy, giving a general idea on what the next four years will look like. However, through UW-Madison organizations like PAVE and Sex Out Loud, which are dedicated to protecting sexual health and well-being on campus, and professionals at University Health Services, there’s still a glimmer of hope for students’ care. While these programs and services are by no means perfect or a replacement for the vital services that are being slashed by Trump, it’s important to note the care put forth by local campus groups.

Criminal history in admissions

On Jan. 24, UW-Madison student Daniel Dropik sparked outrage on campus after distributing flyers denouncing “anti-white racism.”

In the days following, it was discovered that the 33-year-old, who founded the controversial Madison American Freedom Party, had pleaded guilty to two counts of “racially motivated arson” in 2006.

Countless members of the UW-Madison community took to social media platforms and other outlets to express their concerns and curiosity about how Dropik was admitted to the university—which does not currently ask for or consider criminal history in its admissions process.

As a result of these events, UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank issued a statement stating that she “will engage the Board of Regents and the System in a discussion and request that the board consider a review of this policy.” The statement was condemned by student government representatives, who expressed concerns over including criminal history in the admissions process because it is ”unnecessary and discriminatory.”

These are concerns that The Daily Cardinal shares, as there is no evidence to support Blank’s claim that looking at criminal history in the admissions process would keep campus safer.

And though the actions and ideas being promoted by Dropik are deplorable, we believe that criminal history should continue to be excluded in the admissions process.

No further action has been taken by Blank on the matter, but it can’t be forgotten that in her role as chancellor, she should be trying to carry our university “all ways forward.” Including criminal history in the UW System’s admissions process would definitely be a step back.

Segregated fees proposal defeated by opposition

In February, Gov. Scott Walker proposed his biennial budget. This budget would have made segregated fees optional for students. It was ultimately struck by the Joint Finance Committee, but could be introduced as separate legislation in future sessions.

Segregated fees—the approximate $90 every student pays as part of their tuition and fees every semester—help provide funding for student organizations, services such as the student bus pass and more on campus. By making these fees optional, funding to help maintain these services and organizations would plummet.

ASM currently uses a viewpoint neutrality system to fairly fund student organizations using the existing segregated fees. However, if this funding were to decrease or even disappear, many fear that the viewpoint neutral system would disintegrate, and the amount and variety of student organizations on campus would suffer.

What do you think are the most important events of the past semester? Please send all comments, questions and concerns to editorialboard@dailycardinal.com.

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