Campus News

Police escort graduate students from Bascom Hall following meeting protest

A meeting with administration ended with UW-Madison police officers removing 16 graduate students from Bascom Hall after the building closed. Image By: Claire Grummon

After a meeting with university administrators, UW-Madison police officers removed graduate students from Bascom Hall after they occupied the building Friday night.

The graduate students were members of Teaching Assistants’ Association, the graduate worker union of UW-Madison. A TAA Facebook post said Dean of the Graduate School William Karpus called the police following a disagreement about the students’ workplace rights.

TAA members informed the officers they intended to remain in Bascom Hall past closing hours, according to UWPD. After police said they issued several warnings, officers escorted 16 “cooperative and peaceful” students out of the building and released them without incident. 

The TAA said the graduate students waited four hours in Bascom Hall after administrators “walked out” on the meeting before police took action — and during the meeting, Karpus pushed a graduate student. 

UW-Madison attributed the physical contact to "approximately 20 students who charged the door," according to a news release, but TAA Co-President Chance McMahon called this a mischaracterization of what took place. 

Karpus attempted to shut the door to his office  while a student was partially through the doorway, and then he pushed the student in order to clear the way, according to McMahon.

The graduate students found this response to be not in the spirit of the meeting, which Karpus and Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Laurent Heller proposed themselves, according to the TAA.

"[Karpus and Heller] gave no indication that this was a closed meeting, and as representatives of graduate workers on campus, we feel that UW administrators need to hear directly from the students that they (and we) represent," McMahon said in an email.

Police also arrested TAA members, taking down graduate student's personal information, McMahon said. Officers released the students without citation, however.

The university said it is "disappointed by the student actions, as the university has engaged in good faith discussions over graduate student compensation and policy concerns."

The TAA also was disappointed in the end result of the meeting protest. 

“This is a blatant violation of trust and an outrageous act of bad faith,” the Facebook post wrote. “Our message to the administrators is clear: You’ve put us in poverty, so now we’re putting you on notice.” 

The TAA has been fighting to end mandatory segregated fees — which pay for services such as University Health Services, bus passes and recreational facilities — for over a year.

The TAA also urged administration to sign the Graduate Assistant Policies and Procedures, create a committee to improve graduate worker policies, commit to fee relief and end the international student fee by next year, according to their Facebook post. 

UW-Madison's efforts to reduce costs for graduate students includes increasing the minimum stipend for teaching assistants on campus by 8.99 percent for the 2019-'20 academic year. 

The university remains ready to have constructive dialogue with the graduate students, the news release said.

This article has been updated to include comments from the TAA and UW-Madison's response. 

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