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Monday, May 20, 2024

UW-Madison faculty and students criticize administration’s response to encampments at Faculty Senate meeting

UW-Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin did not take questions at Faculty Senate meeting Monday.

Roughly 250 faculty and pro-Palestine protesters marched up Bascom Hill to express frustration at University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin and campus administration during a UW-Madison Faculty Senate meeting Monday.

The Faculty Senate meets on the first Monday of the month during the academic year to discuss campus policy.

Mnookin authorized University of Wisconsin Police Department (UWPD) and other campus area police agencies to remove a pro-Palestine encampment on Library Mall, leading to the arrest of 34 protesters last Wednesday. This decision drew criticism from campus groups including the Associated Students of Madison, local politicians and UW-Madison’s faculty union.

Mnookin opened the meeting by talking about the “community safety risk” the recent encampments pose to campus. The encampments started last Monday to protest the university’s involvement with Israel and call for disclosure and divestment of university finances

Encampments are not permitted under Chapter 18 of Wisconsin Administrative Code, however, Mnookin can authorize camping on university property. She said authorization must be “content neutral” because of the First Amendment.

“I can’t authorize a single exception to one organization unless I’m prepared to make the same decision for all other groups,” Mnookin said.

Mnookin showed a transcript of a voicemail the university received, asking the chancellor what she would do if they were to organize an “anti-Black Lives Matter” encampment.


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Voicemail received by UW-Madison administration about an "anti-Black Lives Matter" protest.

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“How would we respond if a neo-Nazi group — such as the one we had here in Madison in November — made similar use of campus lands?” Mnookin said.

In response to the voicemail shared by Mnookin earlier in the meeting, Johnny, a creative writing graduate student, said he “will not be used as a scapegoat to justify police intervention” as a Black student.

Mnookin did not take questions after her remarks.

The floor opened up for comments from faculty members following Mnookin’s statement, beginning with Samer Alatout, a community and environmental sociology professor, who participated in the encampment and was arrested during the police’s removal of the encampment on Wednesday.

“One of my biggest critiques for what happened this week is that the administration has taken itself to represent the university, and that it is the university,” Alatout said. “Every time there was an offer [from students to talk], the administration insisted the encampment come down before they talk.”

Since UWPD’s intervention, campus administration and protesters met to discuss the protesters demands

Alatout also said it was “problematic” the university called UWPD, detaining three faculty members of color and said it could not be ignored as “coincidental.”

Alatout said despite his experiences with the police intervention Wednesday, he will continue to advocate and protect his students. 

“If [the police] come again and the students have not reached an agreement, I will stay again,” Alatout said. “I will stand between them and any police officer.” 

Gender and women's studies professor Leigh Senderowicz spoke on “the sense of unbelievable betrayal” she felt seeing her colleagues arrested and injured.

“I'm wondering if this is the kind of place where that's how we treat our colleagues,” Senderowicz said, referring to faculty arrests made when police came to the encampment to remove the tents on Wednesday. 

Lily, an interdisciplinary theatre studies Ph.D. candidate, spoke during the meeting on her experience on campus as a Jewish student during the protest.  

“I’m a Jewish student here, my grandparents are Holocaust survivors. I personally did not experience fear or anxiety until I was faced with riot shields,” Lily said. “I've spoken to many Jewish students at the encampment that were not uncomfortable until the police were violent toward us.”

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Anna Kleiber

Anna Kleiber is the state news editor for The Daily Cardinal. Follow her on Twitter at @annakleiber03.


Tomer Ronen

Tomer Ronen is the Features Editor for the Daily Cardinal. Follow him on Twitter at @TRonen22.


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