1: Ground laid for historic recall election
While 2012 has proven eventful for Wisconsin and the UW-Madison community, no story has grabbed more headlines or ignited more controversy this year than the historic recall efforts against Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four state Senators.
Activists angry over Walker’s policies, namely the massive cuts to public education and the elimination of collective bargaining for public workers, began collecting signatures late last year calling for the removal of six Republican politicians from office. By Jan. 16, they had gathered around two million petitions, initiating recall elections.
Tuesday was the beginning of the end for the months-long process, as millions of voters turned out for primaries. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, winner of Tuesday’s primary for the gubernatorial race, will now face Walker June 5 in what is sure to be a heated, and expensive, election.
The general elections are still a month away, but the Walker recall race is already the most expensive election in Wisconsin history; the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel estimates $42 million has already been spent.
2:Despite threats from Mayor Paul Soglin to cancel the Mifflin Street Block
Party over unprecedented amounts of violence at the 2011 event, the party continued this year with about 300 more arrests.
Although approximately 5,000 people attended the block party this year, about 20,000 fewer people than in 2011, arrests were ten times as common.
Another major change from last year is that open intoxicants were not allowed in the streets. Police also took a zero-tolerance approach to party attendees breaking city ordinances.
Additionally, this year’s party was not sponsored. As a result, food vendors, entertainment groups and portable restrooms were not allowed on city sidewalks, and the street was open to traffic.
The May 5 date of the event also led to students adopting the unofficial “Cinco de Mifflin” theme, resulting in custom T-shirts and costumes viewed by some, including newly formed student group “Badgers Against Racism,” as culturally insensitive.
3: Ward’s funding decision leads to debate
When Chancellor David Ward sent the final decision on the Multicultural Student Coalition’s funding to student council, many student leaders said he overstepped his bounds in his administrative role.
The Student Services Finance Committee’s denial of funding for the group last fall sparked debates on campus surrounding the student group funding process, and when the group made the final appeal to Ward, group and committee members alike held their breath awaiting a decision.
Ward sent the decision to student council alleging SSFC violated “viewpoint neutrality” in their initial decision, a claim the Student Judiciary and committee members refuted.
Council ultimately granted MCSC funding, although SSFC members alleged the group had intentionally violated university policy.
4: Chadima allegations spur policy review
Campus officials, including Chancellor David Ward, pledged to reevaluate UW-Madison’s off-campus alcohol policy following an alleged sexual assault by a senior athletic department official during this year’s Rose Bowl.
Former associate athletic director John Chadima put his hands down a male student employee’s pants against the student’s will, according to the alleged victim.
The alleged incident followed a night spent drinking with other athletic department staff in Chadima’s hotel room prior to the Rose Bowl game. The athletic department used donor funds to purchase the drinks that Chadima then offered freely to student employees, many under 21.
Following the allegations, UW officials began investigating the “lack of clarification” for off-campus alcohol policies and procedures, Vice Chancellor for University Relations Vince Sweeney said.
The push to examine policies came at the recommendation of investigators who reported on the allegations and called on the university to consider developing clearer guidelines regarding alcohol service to students.
5: Racial motives suspected in frat incident
Individuals on the porch of Delta Upsilon Fraternity yelled racial slurs and threw a glass bottle at two female African-American students on March 16.
In the aftermath of the incident, the fraternity, one of the campus’s largest and most visible, was placed on emergency suspension by the Division of Student Life and has lost membership to the Interfraternity Council, the governing body of the university’s Greek system, for the duration of the university’s investigation into the incident.
The incident, which allegedly involved fewer than five members of the fraternity, prompted a reevaluation of the university’s system for receiving and investigating reports of alleged prejudice-motivated incidents.
6: Ward makes controversial adidas decision
The question of how UW-Madison should handle alleged labor violations by its primary licensing partner, adidas, provoked protests, finger pointing and anger among students and administration earlier this semester.
The issue began in January 2011 when a factory contracted by adidas and owned by PT Kizone abruptly shut down without paying its 2,800 unemployed workers $1.8 million in severance fees.
In response, a university committee composed of student representatives,faculty and administration recommended to UW-Madison Chancellor David Ward in December that the university give adidas a 90-day ultimatum to pay the workers.
But Ward surprised and disappointed the committee, called the Labor Licensing Policy Committee, when he decided to enter a 60-day period of negotiation with the company rather than give it 90 days’ notice as recommended. Ward said mediation would give UW the best opportunity to come to an agreement with adidas and ultimately get the workers paid.
The university is currently in the beginning stages of mediation. While Ward admitted process has not moved as quickly as he would have liked, he said both parties have agreed upon a process for selecting a mediator from a panel of available retired judges.
UW expects mediation to end in mid-June.
7: Courts overturn Voter ID, redistricting
Wisconsin courts obstructed two major pieces of Republican legislation, annulling the voter identification law and substantially altering the state’s redistricting map earlier this semester.
This spring, a Wisconsin judge froze parts of the Voter ID law, legislation that Republicans said was necessary to prevent voter fraud and Democrats rebuffed as both unnecessary and an impediment to citizens’ constitutional right to vote.
The law, frozen before the state’s historic recall elections, would have required voters to show photo identification at the polls, among other stipulations.
The courts also ordered Republicans to alter their second major 2011 legal maneuver, a state redistricting law that Democrats and state judges said unfairly favored Republicans in several Latino-dominated Milwaukee districts.
8: Equal Pay, abortion-related bills pass
Although budgetary and economic issues have largely dominated the discussion in the statehouse since Gov. Scott Walker took office last year, several contentious social issues briefly took center stage during the 2012 session of the state Legislature, resulting in what Democrats labeled a “war on women.”
In March, the Republican-controlled legislature passed a bill requiring patients seeking drug-induced abortions to individually consult with a doctor before receiving the procedure. Due to uncertainty with the new law, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin decided to stop providing non-surgical abortions.
Walker also signed a bill into law in April that eliminates several key provisions of the state’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act, which was enacted in 2009 in an attempt to prevent workplace discrimination.
Democrats have charged that these measures are part of a larger Republican attack on women’s rights, but the GOP has argued the “war on women” is nothing more than political posturing from the Democrats ahead of the June 5 recall elections.
9: Transportation cuts inspire campus debate
Potential changes to transportation on campus for next year sparked heated discussion throughout the university.
Students vocally opposed the Student Services Finance Committee’s decision to eliminate funding for SafeCab, a decision which the committee later overturned.
Still, Transportation Services said it will no longer manage the program, leaving the university to find a way to facilitate the program.
Transportation Services also is planning a 10 percent cut to campus bus routes to help it balance its budget, which is currently in a deficit.
Campus community members have also opposed the bussing cuts, saying it could make campus less safe and more difficult for individuals with disabilities to maneuver.
10: After dispute, bird flu report published
A study led by a UW-Madison researcher attracted national controversy earlier this year when a government review panel attempted to censor some of the study’s findings on the grounds of national security.
The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity targeted elements of the study—illustrating the transmission of the avian flu—that described how mammals could become susceptible to the H5N1 influenza and lead to a global pandemic.
In his research, Yoshihiro Kawaoka of UW-Madison’s School of Veterinary Medicine indicated that some strains of the flu found in nature need as little as four mutations to become more threatening to humans than previously thought.
The study was eventually published in its entirety May 3. The NSABB reversed their decision on the grounds of the information’s vital importance to public health and security precautions for the strains kept in laboratories in Madison and the Netherlands.