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Monday, September 25, 2023
A W crest emblem is seen on the Field House from inside of Camp Randall Stadium at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Oct. 6, 2012. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

Three UW-Madison news stories to watch this fall

Budget cuts, skyrocketing rents and fights over free speech and belonging loom as fall classes begin.

Protests. Pier collapses. New housing developments. And a tumultuous state budget season that left UW campuses tightening their belts. 

It’s been a busy summer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and plenty of stories behind recent headlines will continue to impact campus throughout the upcoming semester.

Here are three news stories The Daily Cardinal is watching this fall:

How will UW-Madison absorb millions in budget cuts?

UW-Madison is facing a $7 million budget cut this year, the most of any UW System campus. 

It’s still unclear how UW-Madison will absorb budget cuts, though other universities already announced furloughs and layoffs.

Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, proposed a $305 million budget increase for the UW System in his initial two-year state budget plan earlier this year.

Republicans instead cut $32 million from the UW System budget and demanded campuses eliminate all Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the programs promoted indoctrination and were a waste of taxpayer money.

UW campuses could regain the $32 million lost to budget cuts later this year if the Legislature’s Republican-controlled budget-writing committee approves a plan from UW officials to spend the money on workforce development programs.

Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, who co-chairs the budget-writing committee, told the Cardinal he is open to hearing the UW System’s plan. 

But Vos has said the UW System won’t get more money until it cuts DEI programs, something the university opposes.

The Board of Regents will see a draft of the plan in October that will focus on engineering, data, science and nursing programs, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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MORE: DEI endeavors remain in limbo as UW System manages budget cuts

Can UW leaders balance free speech and belonging?

Republican lawmakers have attacked the UW System for years for what they see as suppression of conservative speech on college campuses.

UW System leaders in response have placed free speech at the forefront of campus messaging and conducted a student free speech survey last academic year.

Still, some student leaders say recent pushes to expand free expression empower acts of hate speech that jeopardize their sense of belonging and safety on campus.

UW-Madison last year saw antisemitic chalkings on the first day of classes, a protest over a transphobic, conservative speaker invited to Memorial Union and days of protests after video footage of a white UW-Madison student making violent racist remarks about Black people circulated on social media.

Campus administrators, including Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin, have met with Black student leaders since the protests to discuss concerns about long-standing racial bias and discrimination at UW-Madison.

But Mnookin — who told student reporters last fall that “one person’s hate speech is another person’s idea” — maintains legal protections for free speech limit the university’s response to hate and bias incidents.

MORE: UW System grapples with trends of campus speech suppression

Will campus housing costs keep climbing amid shortages?

Last year’s scramble for student housing made headlines after some students braved cold fall air and waited in line for hours to get an apartment amid skyrocketing housing costs.

Average rents in Madison rose nearly 30% since March 2020 — faster than any other city nationwide — driven in part by on- and off-campus housing shortages.

Long lines and rent hikes are likely to happen this year, too. While UW-Madison said its current freshman class is slightly smaller than last year’s record-setting number of new freshmen, most of the roughly 8,000 students accepted this fall will join upperclassmen searching for housing later this fall.

Neighborhoods around campus are in the midst of a luxury student high-rise boom to address the housing shortage, with over a half-dozen such projects under construction or in planning and more likely on the way.

Still, affordable student housing advocates worry the luxury high-rise boom is slashing the number of low-cost units available to students, forcing those with lower incomes to accept poor housing conditions or move further away from campus.

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Tyler Katzenberger

Tyler Katzenberger is the managing editor at The Daily Cardinal. As a former state news editor, he covered numerous protests and wrote state politics, healthcare, business and in-depth stories. Follow him on Twitter at @tk_kutz.


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