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Friday, February 26, 2021

ASM calls on UW to fire employee following hateful motorcycle incident

The Associated Students of Madison (ASM) released a statement on Friday calling for UW-Madison to place Rich Yaeger, a UW employee who drove his motorcycle through a group of protesters in Capitol Square, on unpaid leave. 

The Nov. 13 statement from ASM condemns Yaeger's violence and calls for his termination on behalf of the UW students affected. 

“Student testimony, video evidence and posts by Rich Yaeger on his personal blog and social media demonstrate his lack of remorse for running over human beings on a motorcycle,” the statement reads. “Additionally, Rich Yaeger’s social media has racist rhetoric and white supremacist ideologies which creates a hostile environment at the University.” 

“It is important for ASM to advocate for the students it represents in all situations,” ASM Chair Matthew Mitnick said. “Students should always be empowered to make their voices heard — and this instance directly threatens this.”

On Nov. 6, Yaeger, a senior power plant operator for the UW, posted a video to YouTube of the conflict. In the video, Yaeger, who approaches a car blockade in Capitol Square, begins to insist that he be allowed to drive through. 

The conflict involved many UW students, and UW-Madison student Tarah Stangler —who is also a founding member of the UW-Madison BIPOC Coalition — says that she and two other people were directly hit by Yaeger’s motorcycle. A video posted on the BIPOC Coalition Instagram shows Yaeger driving through the crowd of people that had gathered near his motorcycle and around the car blockade. 

“Regardless as to who the perpetrator was, ASM would have released a statement in support of the students involved,” Mitnick said. “However, considering that the man behind this crime, Rich Yaeger, is a UW employee, makes our efforts matter even more.”

In the statement, ASM states that “any action otherwise is an insult to the students who experienced violence at the hands of this individual.” 

“UW Administration has demonstrated an unwillingness to support its students throughout this year,” Mitnick said. “The fact that Yaeger showed up to gaslight the same students at another protest this weekend means that whatever the University has been doing to discipline him is not enough. Action must be taken before he seriously hurts somebody.”

ASM plans on continuing to push for Yaeger’s unpaid leave, despite the university already placing him on paid leave. 

“We will not rest until justice is served to Rich Yaeger,” Mitnick said. “I will not stop reminding [Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Laurent Heller] of the need for him to do his job and discipline those under his control who threaten the safety of students. ASM will continue to maintain pressure at all times.”

Mitnick advises that students looking to support ASM’s statement and help ASM approach this call to action should email Heller at laurent.heller@wisc.edu.

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