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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
Students have shown both disdain and support for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Students have shown both disdain and support for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Partisan politics divide campus in wake of Kavanaugh confirmation

Though they’re far from the Supreme Court in Washington, UW-Madison students have a lot to say about recently confirmed Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and it’s dividing campus based on political ideologies.

Students voiced both support and criticism for the Justice after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s public testimony that he sexually assaulted her in high school, the subsequent hearing and his confirmation.

Judge Kavanaugh was confirmed to serve on the Supreme Court on Oct. 6 with a 50-48 vote by the Senate, following a highly controversial hearing process that resulted in an FBI investigation.

UW-Madison College Republicans Chairman Charlie Mueth said the confirmation is likely to increase polarization among students. Because Kavanaugh’s nomination process has been highly public and controversial, it has drawn attention from students of all political parties.

“It’s disappointing, but not surprising that he was confirmed,” UW-Madison freshman Aerin Lammers said.

4,477 UW-Madison students identified as liberal, 1,568 identified as conservative and 1,654 identified as moderate, a 2017 study found. Although Supreme Court Justice is a nonpartisan position, students in the majority rallied against Kavanaugh’s conservative views and in support of sexual assault survivors.

“There are a lot of voices on campus that say we hear you, we listen to you, we believe you. This is going to fire people up more and say that we need to stand up and listen to survivors,” UW-Madison College Democrats Press Secretary Sam Schwab said.

Many conservative students on campus had a different understanding of the trial and confirmation.

“While the opposers may have been more loud, there are a vast number of moderate or conservative students at UW-Madison who always saw the qualifications of Kavanaugh and saw past the hysteria surrounding his confirmation,” Mueth said.

For some Kavanaugh opposers, it was the combination of his partisan politics, behavior at the hearing and alleged history of sexual violence that caused people to doubt his ability to be an effective Supreme Court Justice.

The fact that he has been accused by three women, two of whom had corroborating witnesses who were not interviewed, along with his disrespectful and partisan comments, were enough to disqualify him given that it is a nonpartisan position, Schwab said.

Other students took issue with the way the hearings were conducted in general, criticizing both sides for bringing party politics into Kavanaugh’s nomination.

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“I think it’s a degradation of the process in general that it basically turned into a partisan mudslinging match,” UW-Madison freshman Philip Klinker said. “And even though I do think Brett Kavanaugh did assault Christine Blasey Ford, I think it wasn’t handled well by the Democrats.”

The hearing and confirmation process has inspired many to further advocate against sexual assault and harassment.

“For people who are paying attention, it seems students have been energized,” said Kathleen Culver, an assistant professor in UW-Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “Young women are saying this is unacceptable, and it is nowhere near where we should be in society.”

Multiple student organizations have taken action to show their support for sexual assault survivors and opposition to Kavanaugh following his confirmation.

The Student Association for Reproductive Justice (SARJ) and Promoting Awareness,Victim Empowerment (PAVE) organized a forum to discuss responses to Kavanaugh’s confirmation, which included a speech by Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, and a question and answer with representatives from various organizations.

“A survivor got up in front of the whole country and spoke and people didn’t believe her, and personally to me that was eye-opening,” SARJ Chair Natalia Kwiatkowska said. “There’s so many resources on campus for survivors, but then something like this happens and and you’re like ‘will people really believe survivors?’”

The discussion was meant to open up a dialogue and create a safe space for students who wanted to open up or listen to other student’s thoughts, according to Noelle Filai, a social affairs intern at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.

For many UW-Madison community members, the hearing signified both a lack of belief of and support for sexual assault survivors.

“I would never wish for it to happen this way, but I’m happy people are awakened to the tremendous power of the Supreme Court,” Culver said. 

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