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Thursday, May 26, 2022
Tony Robinson

Protesters holding Tony Robinson’s picture remind us all of the very human victim of this shooting.

Top 10 News: Spring Semester 2015

Here are the biggest stories of the 2015 spring semester from UW-Madison, the city and the state at large. 

1. Police officer shoots Tony Robinson following altercation 

Madison Police Officer Matt Kenny shot and killed 19-year-old Tony Robinson in a family home on Williamson Street in March, sparking months of protest and calls for Kenny’s arrest.

When community members learned of the shooting, a crowd gathered at the scene, where police had shut down the block of Williamson Street on which the shooting occurred.

Robinson’s grandmother, Sharon Irwin, appeared before the crowd to ask that protests continue, but continue peacefully.

In the following months, the Young, Gifted & Black coalition and other groups marched and rallied at the state Capitol, the City County Building and other locations around Madison, sometimes shutting down streets as they called for Kenny’s indictment.

Madison Police Chief Mike Koval wrote a letter to city alders as the protests continued, demanding they show more support of city law enforcement.

After the state Department of Justice completed an investigation into the matter, the department submitted its report to Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne to determine whether to bring criminal charges against Kenny.

Ozanne has not announced a decision yet but said he would give the public 48-hour notice before he does.

-Andrew Hahn

2. Gov. Scott Walker proposes state budget

Gov. Scott Walker proposed a state budget Jan. 27 that would place a $300 million budget cut on the UW System and reorder it under a public authority model.

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This public authority model would grant the Board of Regents the autonomy to set policy that would otherwise need approval from the Legislature and remove shared governance from state statute.

UW-Madison is preparing to carry $96 million of the system-wide cuts, which Chancellor Rebecca Blank said will come from all campus departments and nonresident tuition increases.

Blank also said in an April 17 online post that 400 university positions will be eliminated, several programs will be closed or merged and less money will be budgeted toward maintaining buildings on campus.

Students can expect larger class sizes with fewer course options and a reduction in advising services, which Blank said could hurt both the time students take to graduate and retention.

2014-’15 Associated Students of Madison Chair Gen Carter said she expects the Board of Regents to create a new policy to replace shared governance upon its potential removal.

Walker’s proposal removed phrases from the Wisconsin Idea, the system’s commitment to serving the greater good of the state. He later reinserted the idea, calling it a “drafting error.”

-Ellie Herman

3. Nonresident, graduate school tuition increases

Nonresident tuition will increase for UW-Madison students starting Fall 2015, after the Board of Regents approved the first two years of the university’s plan at an April 3 meeting.

Out-of-state tuition is set to increase $6,000 by the 2016-’17 school year, bringing it to $31,523. International undergraduate cost will be raised $7,000 within two years to $32,523.

Various graduate school programs, such as the School of Business, will face a 9.8 percent tuition increase to all programs.

In-state tuition is not set to increase, due to a previous tuition freeze by Gov. Scott Walker.

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in an online post she is “confident” the nonresident tuition increases will not hurt the university’s ability to attract new students.

2014-’15 Associated Students of Madison Vice Chair Derek Field said Wisconsin has “long prided” itself for its affordability within the Big Ten conference.

-Ellie Herman

4. Gov. Scott Walker makes presidential moves

Gov. Scott Walker won the attention of the state and the nation by organizing committees and trips abroad that left many wondering if they were preludes to a run at the 2016 presidential nomination.

In January Walker began what would become a series of speeches in Iowa, sharing stages with other rumored presidential hopefuls like U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Walker also hired staff to open offices in early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

Walker spent much of the spring abroad, making trips to England, Spain and other countries to talk with world leaders about economic policy.

An April poll conducted by the Marquette University Law School found Walker leading among other Republicans in his home state, but trailing declared Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton by nine points in a possible matchup.

-Andrew Hahn

5. Republicans expedite passage of right-to-work bill

Chaotic public hearings, a 24-hour floor debate and numerous protests could not stop the right-to-work bill from becoming law, as Gov. Scott Walker signed the controversial bill March 9.

Republican leaders introduced the bill, which prohibits making union membership a condition of employment, in late February during an extraordinary session of the Legislature.

Their actions set the stage for a contentious public hearing in the Senate, with the committee approving the measure as the room erupted into chaos following a decision to end the hearing early.

The full Senate passed the bill the next day, sending it to the Assembly for its approval. That body needed 24 hours of debate and despite the repeated pleas of Democratic lawmakers, they too voted to send the bill to Walker’s desk.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the bill’s passage was a victory for the freedom of Wisconsin workers.

-Andrew Bahl

6. Soglin keeps mayoral title

Mayor Paul Soglin gained more than 70 percent of votes and retained his title in a race against former Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, in the 2015 spring elections.

Soglin and Resnick won with 52.7 and 23.3 percent of the vote, respectively, against three challengers in the February 17 primary election.

About an hour after polls closed April 7 and Resnick conceded the race, Soglin reaffirmed his reasons for running.

“I made a commitment four years ago,” Soglin said to his supporters. “I couldn’t live with myself if I abandoned issues where I tried to get the city focused, [like] poverty [and] dealing with equity. ... We are going to continue to lead.”

Community members recently protested for action addressing the core causes of homelessness after Soglin released a letter about ending homelessness. He called for not allowing people to sleep in the State Street and Capitol Square area, something he did not address during his re-election campaign.

 -Dana Kampa

7. YGB protests Dane County jail renovations

As Dane County Board supervisors dug deeper into plans to renovate the Dane County jail early this year, the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition directed its efforts at stopping the proposals in protest of the perpetuated racial disparities the group said the jail creates.

YGB organized protests, debates and discussions during the past months to bring current jail conditions to light, arguing no money should be spent before the prison releases 350 inmates. Members cited data from the 2013 Race to Equity report, which exposed disproportionate incarceration rates between African-American and white populations in Dane County.

Concurrently, renovation supporters like Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney argued during a debate with YGB in March the renovations would improve conditions inside the jail.

Sponsors on the Dane County Board proposed a resolution targeting solitary confinement, mental health and structural problems with the jail itself in February, which Dane County’s finance committee postponed a decision on late April after hearing much public dissent.

-Laura Grulke 

8. UW-Madison holds diversity forums, shares Diversity Framework updates

With diversity at the forefront of national conversation, UW-Madison administration held two sets of forums surrounding diversity and inclusion on campus in January and April.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank hosted an event Jan. 20 with Dean of Students Lori Berquam and Interim Vice Provost for Diversity and Climate Patrick Sims, allowing the UW-Madison community to convene and share thoughts on bettering diversity on campus.

However, Amani Alexander, facilitator of the Dec. 14 Black Lives Matter College Library demonstration said the student voice was not included enough in the planning of the event.

Sims said students were “mobilizing” the way they knew how and he continued throughout the semester to further implement the Diversity Framework, a campus-wide initiative to strengthen diversity and inclusion.

Sims held a second set of forums throughout April to update the university on the

Framework and reassure the community the initiatives would be pursued despite budget concerns.

-Ellie Herman

9. State enacts regulations for Uber, Lyft

Students who use rideshare companies such as Uber or Lyft can rejoice, as a bill regulating those businesses at the statewide level passed the state Legislature in April and was signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker.

The bill would require the popular services to carry liability insurance, pay a licensing fee every two years and conduct background checks on drivers. It would also supercede local regulations, overruling ordinances in Madison that effectively ban the services.

Days before Walker signed the bill, two women reported being sexually assaulted by different Uber drivers. Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, a longtime critic of rideshare companies, accused Uber of “stonewalling” investigations into the incidents.

Bill co-author state Rep. Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, said the measure provides a boost to the state’s economy.

“[The bill] encourages companies to move here and, by setting statewide standards, there is certainty for these companies,” August said before the bill passed the state Assembly.

-Andrew Bahl

10. SLAC protests university relationship with JanSport

The Student Labor Action Coalition held protests throughout the semester against the university's affiliation with JanSport, a subsidiary of the garment conglomerate VF Corporation.

Protests varied in method—including demonstrators wearing signs instead of UW apparel, an art piece made of shirts and a talk by a Rana Plaza collapse survivor—with the goal of urging VF Corporation to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.

While the corporation was a founding member of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, SLAC claims the Alliance is less accountable than the Accord.

In an April 24 letter, Chancellor Rebecca Blank reaffirmed her decision not to terminate the university’s relationship with JanSport. While other universities have cut ties with VF Corporation, Blank stressed that JanSport does not have control over the documents and does not produce in Bangladesh.

SLAC members said they plan to continue protesting until VF signs the Accord or the university cuts ties with JanSport.

-Miller Jozwiak 

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