The Associated Students of Madison took up several pieces of legislation Tuesday and while the body passed all of them, they did was not without debate.
Diversity resolution passes, representatives of color abstain from vote
Although many students of color did not vote in favor of the resolution, ASM passed UW-Madison’s institutional statement on diversity, which asserts the university’s commitment to such efforts.
Last council, Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer Patrick Sims informed ASM that they were the only governing body on campus that had not endorsed UW-Madison’s institutional statement on diversity.
Sims presented the resolution to council in fall 2016 and said it seemed to be initially supported.
However, after the presentation, a photo of a person dressed in a Barack Obama mask and a noose around their neck surfaced on social media during a Wisconsin football game last year. Students were angry with Chancellor Rebecca Blank’s statement. While the costume was offensive, she said that the person had the right to exercise their free speech and wear it.
Some representatives of color said this is one example of the university failing to adequately serve minorities on a predominately white campus.
“I would just like to say that as a student of color I don’t really feel like the university has really shown a commitment to [diversity] and I will be voting against this,” Rep. Ekenedilichukwu Ikegwuani said.
The statement reads:
“Diversity is a source of strength, creativity, and innovation for UW-Madison. We value the contributions of each person and respect the profound ways their identity, culture, background, experience, status, abilities, and opinion enrich the university community. We commit ourselves to the pursuit of excellence in teaching, research, outreach, and diversity as inextricably linked goals.
“The University of Wisconsin-Madison fulfills its public mission by creating a welcoming and inclusive community for people from every background—people who as students, faculty, and staff serve Wisconsin and the world.”
Building Bill of Rights calls for greater inclusivity on campus
The building bill of rights is what Equity and Inclusion Chair Alex Hader called a “guiding document” for the university. The provision would require administration to include a number of measures in all new buildings on campus or at least seriously consider the following for all building remodels:
- Gender inclusive restrooms
- Free menstrual products
- Emergency escape plan for those with a disability
- ADA accessibility
- An evaluation of the building once every five years upon complaint
- LEED silver energy efficiency certification
- Sustainable waste practices
- Solar energy options
- Efficient hand dryers
- The right of Shared Governance to asses future building projects for compliance with these codes.
While some representatives praised the legislation for its inclusiveness for many groups on campus, not everyone thought that the legislation was realistic.
“To be honest, this kind of seems like an idealistic pipe dream — this entire Building Bill of Rights,” Rep. Jeremy Swanson. “Do you not think it would be more effective to work with administration on something that’s more realistic than this?”
Rep. Dylan Resch agreed. He said building new bathrooms and re-doing the plumbing in already-existing buildings on campus would be overly expensive.
“Seeing how there’s no law in Wisconsin that bars transgender students — gender nonconforming students — from going into the bathroom they choose, I think this is excessive,” Resch said.
Despite the criticism, Hader said she met with campus officials who specialize in faculty planning and ADA accessibility when crafting the legislation.
“The main thing to remember is that these things are happening on campus, they’re just not happening all at once,” Hader said.
Council approves resolution supporting complimentary menstrual products pilot program
The council also approved a resolution stating that ASM will compile data from a pilot program rolling out menstrual products on campus to potentially expand the offerings to all public university buildings provided that the pilot is successful.
However, since the pilot goes until the end of the fall semester, Resch said he thought that the body’s support of the initiative was too preemptive. Though supportive of the pilot, Resch said it was important to not assume student feedback.
“I don’t think we can effectively say we are doing that if we assume what the results are going to be,” Resch said. “It makes me question why we did the pilot in the first place.”
But Nominations Board Chair Evan Pelke insisted the legislation was just showing support for the pilot program, essentially letting the campus community know that this service is available.