Nearly 40 students walked out of class March 10 as part of the BlackOut movement to protest the UW System’s mandatory standardized testing requirement for application at the Board of Regents meeting.
The students stood up roughly an hour into their third Board of Regents protest and began to recite their list of six demands, which are focused on improving inclusivity and diversity on UW campuses.
When the students started to yell, the Board of Regents quickly called a recess.
“At this point it’s a clear recognition that the Board of Regents just doesn't care,” said Kenneth Cole, a UW-Madison senior and co-leader of BlackOut. “If they can do so quietly [the Board of Regents] would like to continue acting as oppressors and to continue to act with disregard to any other student experience than the majority being impacted by what they do.”
Both Cole and Tyriek Mack, a UW-Madison sophomore and co-leader of BlackOut, said the removal of mandatory standardized testing from UW System schools would be a focus for the BlackOut movement going forward.
“There has been so much research against it,” Cole said. “It’s almost blatantly oppressive to ignore the fact that you are only hindering low-income and minority students from attending the university.”
After listing the group’s demands, three female UW-Madison students spoke about recent instances of discrimination across UW System schools.
Misha Johnson, a UW-Madison junior and member of the Wunk Sheek student organization, detailed a Wednesday night incident of discrimination when Native Americans were mocked with stereotypical war cries during a healing circle.
Johnson was moved to tears when she told the Board of Regents about the incident.
“As a future educator I always have to have something written when I talk,” Johnson said. “But I really used this incident as my motivation and I just really spoke from my heart this time.”
University Housing has started an investigation into the March 9 incident and Vice Provost and Dean of Students Lori Berquam sent out a campuswide email in response.
Berquam said the incident, along with recent instances of bias, “have deeply hurt students, but also caused damage to our community as a whole.”
UW-Madison Director of News and Media Relations Meredith McGlone encouraged any students with information about the incident to report it to email@example.com.
After the three students finished their speeches, the Board of Regents began to speak to and possibly thank the members of BlackOut, but the group quickly left. Cole said they walked out because a thank you from the Board of Regents would have been insincere.
To grow the movement, Cole said he wants to further expand on other UW campuses and to draft specific policy options for their demands to present to the Board of Regents.
As BlackOut left the meeting, faculty members who were at the meeting because of the new tenure policy applauded the group of students.