The Madison City Council voted Tuesday night not tocall on UW-Madison to make changes to its “Smart Restart” plan, rejecting a resolution that would have urged the university to end in-person classes and send home students from dorms.
The resolution, proposed earlier this month and sponsored by Alders Max Presigiacomo and Syed Abbas, argued that since the university maintains that education should influence people’s lives outside the classroom, it therefore has a responsibility to promote the health of Madison-area residents.
The nonbinding resolution would have called on UW-Madison to switch to online-only learning, expand on current testing and contact tracing, prohibit students from returning to on-campus housing until there are zero new cases in Dane County for fourteen days and finally, “actively engage in anti-racist practices by empowering BIPOC communities on campus.”
Earlier this month, the Dane County Board of Supervisors passed a similar resolution on a 24-9 vote urging UW-Madison to discontinue in-person classes.
On a 5-14 vote though, the City Council’s resolution failed. However, it was not without support.
Matthew Mitnick, chair of the Associated Students of Madison (ASM), registered to speak in favor of the resolution. He took the time to thank Ald. Presigiacomo of District 8 for writing the resolution before reminding the council that students support it as a whole.
“We’re really looking to you all, our leaders at the city, to be that voice for us that our administrators are not,” he said.
He stated that the administration has continually ignored student voices in its “Smart Restart” plan, pushing the needs of Madison residents and students of color to the wayside. Last week, Chancellor Rebecca Blank cancelled a meeting with ASM after learning that the UW BIPOC Coalition would speak before her, citing a scheduling conflict with the agenda.
The BIPOC Coalition has made several demands of the university in order to meet the needs of students of color on campus, including removing the Abraham Lincoln monument located at the top of Bascom Hill, abolishing the University of Wisconsin Police Department and enacting a “Moral Restart.”
The alders that ultimately voted against the resolution cited issues with communication and the feeling that the resolution was being used as a “blunt instrument.” Ald. Tag Evers of District 13 stated that the situation was like a “pissing match between the students and administration.”
Mitnick later took to Twitter to refer to Ever’s statement. “Your disregard for students is very apparent. This is NOT A F*CKING GAME. It may be to you, but not to the BIPOC students continually being ignored,” he wrote.
UWBIPOC Coalition spokesperson Tarah Stangler wrote a letter in response to City Council and UW-Madison administration, reiterating demands that the organization has made in the past.
“Alder Presigiacomo’s resolution tonight was an exemplification of the third request we made of the University, demonstrating how students and community members are bearing the burden of ensuring community safety that this University has deemed non-important in favor of cashing student tuition checks,” Stangler stated. “Rather than find ways to listen to or protect their students, this University has instead weaponized their own 'Smart Restart' plan against students of color.”
Stangler also noted the statement made by Evers and reminded alders that students are their constituents too.
“It is your duty to take sides, to listen to what our concerns are and to take them just as seriously as any other member of the community,” she said.