Read the Top Ten News of the semester

The Daily Cardinal has you covered. Get debriefed on the top 10 things that happened on campus this semester with our Top Ten News.

Image By: Kaitlyn Veto- Cardinal File Photo

In the history of UW-Madison, one could argue there has never been a "dull" semester on campus. The fall of 2017 saw the university's first concrete data on campus climate and food insecurity, new punishments for student protestors and increased crime. Sound like a lot to remember? The Daily Cardinal has you covered. Get debriefed on the top ten things that happened on campus this semester with our Top Ten News.

1. Student protestors will face punishment under new Regent policy, following push from state legislators

Two Republican lawmakers introduced a highly controversial bill this past April to punish students who protest and disrupt speakers on campus. The bill, titled the “Campus Free Speech Act,” would suspend student protestors for a minimum of one semester and repeat offenders could even be expelled.

A second bill extended the punishments to students who may disrupt speakers at technical colleges.

The purpose, lawmakers said, was to protect all student voices — especially conservative students’ voices who felt drowned out by campus protest of conservative speakers.

These bills sparked immense outcry from students, faculty and Democratic lawmakers.

The trajectory of the bills, however, shifted from legislative action to a Board of Regents ruling. In October, the Board of Regents approved a policy mirroring the Campus Free Speech Act. The policy also required chancellors to provide an explanation to the regents if they choose not to expel a student.

“Campuses across the country are wrestling with the question of appropriate behavior of students,” Board of Regents President John Behling said in October. “Through this policy, we inform students and taxpayers that we can provide a world-class education in an atmosphere where civility, respect and safety is required and expected.”

- Lilly Price

2. Results from university's first campus climate survey show not everyone feels welcome 

Following movements like #TheRealUW and years of students calling on the university to address the concerns of underrepresented populations on campus, UW-Madison released results from its first-ever campus climate survey Nov. 1.

Results of the survey showed what the university “had long known anecdotally” — underrepresented students have a significantly less positive perception of the university’s environment. While 81 percent of UW-Madison’s overall student population often feel welcome on campus, just 69 percent of LGBQ students, 67 percent of students with a disability, 65 percent of black students and 50 percent of trans or nonbinary students felt similarly.

Additionally, data showed that conservatives felt more welcome on campus, and that many UW-Madison students do not feel comfortable contacting university police if they have an issue. University officials said they do not plan to create new programs to address these problems, but rather plan to improve the initiatives already in place.

Chief Diversity Officer Patrick Sims said the university plans to repeat this climate survey every four to five years. 

- Lawrence Andrea

3. UW System's unexpected plan to merge 4-year universities with 2-year colleges upsets students, faculty

The Board of Regents passed UW System President Ray Cross’s controversial plan at their November meeting to pair two-year schools with four-years after declining enrollment at smaller institutions.

In the fall, UW System enrollment dropped by more than two percent at half of the schools, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, resulting in an estimated loss of about 2,500 students. In 2016, this figure was an estimated 5,000 students, resulting in tens of millions of dollars of lost revenue.

But the plan, which leaked in October, sparked outrage from students and faculty who were not consulted in the decision-making process. After the announcement, students at two-year UW System schools wondered how school activities such as student government and athletics would be impacted. Meanwhile, faculty worried about losing their jobs if the plan cleared the regents.

Now that the plan has passed, UW-Extension will be under UW-Madison and UW System control. Schools will officially merge beginning July 1, 2018.

- Maggie Chandler

4. Changes to UW dining draws sharp student criticism

New students entering UW-Madison’s residence halls next year will be now be required to deposit a minimum of $1400 onto their WisCard, only to be used for dining.

University Housing Director Jeff Novak said the change was necessary because of growing concern from parents and students over being unaware of how much dining is expected to cost. He said the new plan will provide a guideline so that students can hold themselves accountable.

The plan received backlash from shared governance groups and student organizations across the UW-Madison community. Some students claimed the minimum deposit of $1400 — what Novak said was the average price a student spends — was higher than necessary. Others disagreed with the rule that money not spent at the end of the year would be forfeited to the university, and yet more said the plan does not take into account different students’ dietary restrictions.

- Lawrence Andrea

5. Chemistry TA relieved from teaching duties amid allegations of white supremacy

UW-Madison relieved a graduate student from his teaching duties in October after a blog post, which claimed he was expelled from Oberlin College for racist messaging and currently belongs to a white supremacist group, went viral. The student, Dylan Bleier, denied the allegations.

A Facebook page that appears to belong to Bleier is a member of the Madison chapter of the self-proclaimed "Western chauvinist" organization Proud Boys. Additionally, tweets and Facebook posts that appear to belong to Bleier call for violence against certain groups and include offensive stereotypes.

“1488 gas the k**** race war now,” one tweet reads. “Kill anyone who wants to censor speech,” says another.

Bleier left Oberlin College after he and a fellow student allegedly vandalized campus and area buildings with anti-Semitic and racist messages and distributed anti-Islam flyers in 2013. The vandalism spree made national news, with many sources calling the incident a “hoax” because he supposedly identified as a liberal and had volunteered for Barack Obama’s campaign.

Bleier and the UW-Madison administration came to an agreement that he would no longer serve as a teaching assistant for Chemistry 109 in order to avoid classroom disruption.

- Noah Habenstreit

6. UW-Madison begins accepting food stamps 

This fall UW-Madison began accepting food stamps in the Flamingo Run of Gordon's.

University Housing announced it would being the process last spring, and submitted an application to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Currently, the Gordon’s Flamingo Run is the only campus location accepting SNAP benefits but officials said they will evaluate the program throughout the year and possibly expand.

The change came after urging from former Associated Students of Madison Representative Brooke Evans, who was food insecure herself. She urged the university to include questions on food and housing insecurity to the Campus Climate Survey which found one in eight students said they had trouble affording sufficient food and housing.

Only campus convenience stores can use the program because all of their food is pre-packaged, the dining halls themselves will never be eligible for the program. 

- Nina Bertelsen

7. Strip of bars on University Avenue see sharp crime increase

The city saw an increase in crime in a popular bar district near the UW-Madison campus this semester — including some instances in which MPD had to deploy pepper spray to break up fights.

The 600 block of University Avenue, which houses Wando’s Bar and Grille and the Double U, has become a focus for police. Some city officials said the area has become a center for “criminal gang” activity and local enforcement is having a hard time keeping up.

City council members have tried to reduce crime through several initiatives including relocating late-night food carts, moving taxi stands and imposing stricter parking regulations on the avenue.

Between Aug. 1 and Oct. 5, MPD opened 117 cases in the area, according to records obtained by The Daily Cardinal. About 84 percent of those incidents — all but 19 — occurred on the weekend. Most were at night, with about 70 percent happening between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.

- Gina Heeb

8. UW sees increase in reported hate crimes, mainly anti-Semitic incidents

Results of the UW-Madison Police Department's Annual Security Report showed an increase in reported hate crimes, with anti-Semitic vandalism the most prominent issue.

Of the 20 crimes reported to UWPD in 2016 — an increase of 18 from 2015 — 14 were incidents of vandalism “motivated by bias against Judaism” and performed by a single offender, according to the report. Crimes ranged from spray paint on a wall outside the Jewish Experience of Madison to swastikas found spray-painted close to the Gates of Heaven Synagogue just off campus.

Some students on campus said these acts make them feel unsafe on campus and need to be addressed. University officials attributed the rise in hate crimes to an increase in the number of incidents reported because “the system is more public.”  

- Lawrence Andrea

9. UW students accused of sexual assault see little time behind bars

In the last few years, UW-Madison students accused of sexual assault have received little legal punishment.

At least five students were convicted in sexual assault cases between 2011 and August of 2017 with maximum sentences that could have totaled more than six decades behind bars. But in total, the five students served less than a year in jail — which is significantly lower than typical sentencing norms for violent crimes — The Daily Cardinal found.

One student convicted of a felony sexual assault was not sentenced to any jail time. The longest sentence among the three UW-Madison students convicted of felonies in the cases was four months.

Former student Alec Shiva’s sentencing in September broke the trend when he received 18 months in jail with three years probation for an assault that took place in his dorm last spring.

Dane County’s sentencing trend sharply deviate from the national average in cases of convicted sexual assault.

Nearly 90 percent of people found guilty of rape serve prison time, with 84 percent sentenced to more than 10 years, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics’ analysis of 2009 data on felony defendants from America’s 75 largest counties.

- Nina Bertelsen and Gina Heeb

10. State budget passes, solidifies increased UW funding with stipulations

Gov. Scott Walker officially signed the 2017-’19 state budget into law in September, finalizing the $76 billion document and ending a months-long stalemate between Republican Assembly and Senate members.

Included in the budget was a $100 million funding boost for the UW System with an additional $31.5 million tied to performance-based metrics — marking the first budget in the past eight state budgets that did not feature cuts to the system. Walker’s previous 2015-’17 budget axed $250 million in revenue from the system.

Metrics require UW schools to perform according to a set of criteria that will determine their share of state funding. During the final budget negotiations, Walker partially vetoed 99 provisions in the budget. He rejected the ability for universities to choose their own metrics to rate themselves against, saying schools would choose metrics that would not be challenging to meet.

- Lilly Price

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