College News

Blank announces working group to research university’s ties with the KKK

UW-Madison to take steps toward grappling with its history

Chancellor Rebecca Blank announced Monday the formation of a task force to research the history of UW-Madison student organizations previously affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan.

Image By: Ben Golden

Following her joint statement on the violence in Charlottesville, Chancellor Rebecca Blank announced Monday the formation of a task force to research the history of UW-Madison student organizations previously affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan.

Blank said there were two student organizations in the 1920s that were “named after or otherwise affiliated with the KKK.” After Charlottesville, Blank said the university needs to “take a fresh look” at its history.

“We also need to ensure that how we acknowledge this history reflects our institutional values of respect and inclusion for all people,” Blank said in the statement. “This is work we’ve recently undertaken with regards to naming and signage on campus that will reflect the Native history of the lands on which UW–Madison sits.”

Blank’s announcement comes after Mayor Paul Soglin told staff to remove two Confederate monuments located in a cemetery which he said were not Civil War monuments.

“It [Madison’s Forest Hill Cemetery] is a slab of propaganda paid for by a racist organization on public property when our city was inattentive to both the new form of slavery propagated by the donors with the Black Codes and to the meaning of that despicable fixture honoring slavery, sedition, and oppression,” Soglin said in a statement.

UW-Madison’s student government, the Associated Students of Madison, supported Soglin’s comments and called for the removal of similar monuments.

“Despite the removal of one monument, we echo the call of Mayor Soglin to immediately remove the remaining monuments,” ASM’s statement reads. “There is no place for bigotry, racism, or white supremacy on college campuses or the broader community and the Associated Students of Madison stands with Mayor Soglin in his efforts to eradicate monuments celebrating these views.”

ASM passed legislation during their last session that called for the university to install a plaque on Bascom Hill acknowledging Abraham Lincoln’s oppression of native people. It was developed in conjunction with Wunk Sheek, a group on campus that serves indigenous students. Administration did not follow through on the measure.

UW-Madison spokesperson Meredith McGlone said that while the university’s comments were not referencing the Lincoln statue, there will be four or five signs put up around campus which will “interpret the 12,000 year history of humanity on the land that is now the UW-Madison campus.”

“This is an ongoing effort on campus. It began with the naming of Dejope Residence Hall by the Ho-Chunk nation and it’s continuing one of the current efforts that we’re working on—signage that is placed in a few different places across campus,” McGlone said.

The signs will be in both English and Ho-Chunk and McGlone said the university hopes they will be up within the next year.

ASM spokesperson Courtney Morrison said that no new legislation regarding the Abraham Lincoln statue has come forward, but she has heard interest from representatives on the issue.

“ASM has historically condemned, and strives to combat all aspects of social violence,” Morrison said.

Blank requested that the working group, which will consist of students, faculty, staff and alumni, meet with her by Dec. 1 to discuss “how best the campus can acknowledge and respond to this history.”

Nina Bertelsen contributed to this report.

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