Since University of Wisconsin students stepped onto campus this past fall, students have seen an unprecedented presidential election, a sexual assault case that garnered national coverage and the eruption of a controversial free speech debate.

The Badger Herald news team recounts these events and more in a recap of the biggest stories from this semester.


UW campus shaken by sexual assault arrests

On Oct. 18, the mugshot of University of Wisconsin student Alec Cook circulated social media, filling the newsfeed and timelines of students and community members alike.

The 20-year-old was arrested for sexually assaulting a female student, among other charges. After being released on a signature bond, a second victim came forward. Then, a third.

Cook turns himself in after second victim comes forwardA second victim has come forward claiming to have been sexually assaulted by University of Wisconsin senior Alec Cook. According Read…

Now, Cook faces a 15-count criminal complaint against five women while awaiting possible release on a $200,000 bail. Dozens of women have come forward with their own personal stories and interactions with Cook, prompting investigators to pursue other possible charges against him.

Cook’s attorneys file motion to replace $200,000 bail with signature bondUniversity of Wisconsin student Alec Cook’s defense attorneys no longer believe the state has sufficient reason to set bail for Read…

As Cook awaits his preliminary hearing, the campus has fought back against a culture where many say sexual assault is normalized by writing open letters to Cook, hosting panel discussions and events about sexual assault and marching down the streets to let others know “rape culture has got to go.”

While the Cook case gained attention from national media, he was not the only other student to have been arrested for sexual assault this semester.

Alec Shiva, a UW freshman, was arrested on sexual assault charges after allegedly attacking a female student while high on LSD.

UW student arrested for sexual assault was high on LSD during attackUniversity of Wisconsin freshman Alec Shiva, who was arrested Friday on multiple charges, was found to be under the influence of Read…

Both Cook and Shiva are under emergency suspension, are prohibited from being on UW property and Shiva awaits a preliminary hearing Dec. 27.

— Alice Vagun

UW works to improve campus climate

After a spring semester of controversial hate and bias incidents including a student getting spat on, multiple instances of hateful graffiti and offensive “war chants” directed at Native American students, university officials unveiled 18 initiatives Sept. 1 to improve the campus racial climate.

An October report showed the number of hate and bias incidents reported from Jan. 1 to June 30 tripled, with 66 individual bias incidents compared to 18 such incidents from August to December 2015.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank said the initiatives were prompted by the “ugly incidents” that happened last spring and she wants to help every student be “free from harassment.”

UW officials unveil initiatives to address campus racial climateUniversity of Wisconsin officials announced 18 initiatives Wednesday with the goal of achieving diversity and inclusivity on UW’s campus. Chancellor Read…

Among the initiatives were plans to implement a campus climate survey for students, a new Black Cultural Center in the Red Gym, a pilot cultural competency training for incoming freshmen and additional trainings for teaching assistants, house fellows, staff and faculty.

Five of the new programs were developed from the more than 100 different campus climate proposals Blank received after she requested ideas back in March.

UW reviews more than 100 proposals to improve campus racial climateFollowing University of Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank’s call for ideas to improve the campus racial climate, more than 100 members of Read…

One of the programs that has the potential to make the biggest changes in student attitudes is the “Our Wisconsin” cultural competency training that was piloted in certain dorms. This program’s effectiveness will be evaluated at the end of the semester.

The initiatives, however, have been met with some skepticisms. UW diversity experts have questioned the effectiveness of cultural competency trainings, stating there is no evidence diversity trainings lead to lasting changes in behavior.

UW’s new cultural competency initiatives draw skepticismThe University of Wisconsin and UW System are implementing initiatives to improve campus’ racial climates, but some experts harbor concerns. Read…

After the election of President-elect Donald Trump, there was a notable spike in bias incident reports, with 16 incidents reported in one week.

— Emily Hamer

Controversial costume incident sparks free speech debate

During a football game this semester, a Camp Randall attendee was pictured wearing a President Barack Obama mask with a noose around his neck. Authorities asked the fan to remove the noose, but did not eject him from the stadium.

After the incident Blank said in a statement that though hateful, the costume was a form of free speech.

Football fan in President Obama mask exercising freedom of speech, chancellor saysA fan in a mask of President Barack Obama with a noose around their neck at the Badger’s football game Read…

This ignited a debate over the difference between free speech and hate speech on campus. UW free speech law expert Donald Downs said the costume was a “grey area” of free speech, but that legally it did ultimately fall under free speech.

Despite an apology and a review of Camp Randall stadium policies, students felt that the university’s initial reaction proved UW just wanted to brush this “under the rug.”

Students took to the streets to protest against UW for not kicking the fan out of the game and using freedom of speech to justify their decision. UW minority students said this incident continues to marginalize groups of people on campus and threatens their safety.

Student athletes take to Twitter demanding change from universitySeveral University of Wisconsin students have taken to Twitter to share an open letter expressing the impact racial injustice has Read…

Conservative public speaker Ben Shapiro, however, visited UW after the noose incident speaking out against UW’s efforts to improve campus climate which he said only inhibit students’ free speech. Shapiro also voiced his opposition against safe spaces.

Conservative pundit Ben Shapiro lectures to turbulent crowd on safe spaces, freedom of speechConservative public speaker Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief for and host of The Ben Shapiro Show, spoke at the University of Read…

Protesters advocating for the preservation safe spaces also attended. As the protesters blocked Shapiro’s stage, a shouting match broke out between protesters and audience members, the former chanting “safety,” the latter chanting “free speech matters.”

As a part of the campus climate initiatives, UW will open its own safe space this February — the Black Cultural Center. This center, which will open in the Red Gym, has also been met with concerns of a potential conflict with free speech.

— Gabby Ortiz


MPD, city work to improve police, community relations

Over the course of the semester, City Council worked to mend the relationship between the Madison Police Department and the Madison community.

After the arrest of Genele Laird in the summer, there was a spike in initiatives to improve the somewhat fractured relationship between the community and the police.

City Council created a new subcommittee to focus primarily on looking at these relationships by hearing from the community and speaking to current MPD officers. Throughout the semester, the subcommittee has held regular meetings, hearing from various community groups across the city.

City Council seeks to mend community-police relations through new subcommitteeAfter a contentious summer filled with debate over the Madison Police Department’s policies and procedures, the Madison City Council created Read…

City Council also decided to conduct a $400,000 study of the policies and practices of MPD. A California police consulting firm was chosen to help identify some of the problems and provide recommendations to their practices.

Overall, Police Chief Mike Koval was not in support of the study, not because he was against agencies looking into the police department’s procedures, he said, but because he thought it was a waste of money.

Three people filed complaints against the chief for what they saw as unprofessional behavior at the meetings through the Madison Board of Police and Fire Commissioners.

Since August, there has also been an increase in gang-affiliated shootings in Madison, with more than 100 shots fired in Madison since the beginning of the year.

— Maija Inveiss

After disagreements, city council passes operating budget

During this year’s budget discussion, Mayor Paul Soglin and the City Council’s opinions differed when it came to what to include in the budget.

In the original 2017 capital budget proposal, Soglin did not include various agency request for new projects to focus on city affordability measures. Many of the council members fought back during both the board of estimates and city council meetings by creating amendments for projects. In the original 2017 operating budget proposal, Soglin focused on addressing racial disparities while trying to keep property taxes low.

One of the main projects originally not included in both the capital and operating budgets was the Midtown police station. Throughout the budget discussions, Soglin was hesitant to include it in the budget, though ultimately city council decided to include it.

The council also approved funding for the restorative justice program, which diverts youth out of the municipal court system.

Council approves 2017 budget, funding restorative justice programs, police stationAfter two days of deliberation, the Madison City Council on Tuesday approved a $369 million capital and $300 million operating Read…

After years of trying to get funding for the creation of a public market, the council also approved it in the budget. The public market will serve the community as a space to bring local businesses together and provide food retail.

Public market to bring local businesses togetherAfter several years of residents pushing for the Madison Public Market to be approved in the city budget, the market will finally Read…

Ultimately, the city council approved a $269 million capital and $300 million operating budget for 2017.

— Maija Inveiss

Local government stands with minorities

During an election season filled with high emotions, minority populations and local government members across Madison stood up and spoke out, whether it was in support of Muslim populations, a continued discussion of the Black Lives Matter movement or involvement in the Standing Rock protests.

Following the results of the election, Madison joined other cities reaffirming its commitment to civil rights through a special resolution passed by city council members. Soglin said while many citizens could be nervous about the possible changes because of the new administration, he plans to continue respecting the entire community. Koval said he does not plan to use police authority in issues of suspected immigration.

Madison joins chorus of cities reaffirming commitment to civil rightsFollowing the results of the 2016 presidential election, city leaders across Madison emphasized inclusion and acceptance of diversity in the Read…

Two local leaders, both representing the campus area, Ald. Zach Wood, District 8, and Dane County Board Supervisor Hayley Young, District 5, said they plan to continue working on implementing progressive ideals post-election, also reaffirming their commitment to the community. 

The Dane County Board also stood in solidarity with the Muslim community after controversial rhetoric from President-elect Donald Trump. The board passed an anti-hate, anti-bias resolution geared toward the Muslim community.

Dane County Board stands in solidarity with Muslim communityThis can’t be real, University of Wisconsin junior Najeeha Khan thought to herself. Khan and likely millions of other Muslims Read…

UW students and community members also stood by the Standing Rock protestors by not only visiting the pipeline, but also hosting events in Madison.

Madison community continues to stand in solidarity with Standing RockAs part of a national day of action, University of Wisconsin students and Madison residents marched to the steps of Read…

Ald. Rebecca Kemble, District 18, was arrested in North Dakota, while protesting the pipeline. As a way to vocalize their support for indigenous people, city council expressed solidarity with indigenous resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

After finding out the news of delayed construction of the pipeline, city council members were pleased about the protest, but believed the fight is not over yet.

— Maija Inveiss


Republican candidates sweep Wisconsin, spark protests

News of President-elect Donald Trump winning the presidential election shocked people across the nation, including students on campus. Though the first Republican win in Wisconsin for the presidential election since 1984 would have been historic alone, the elections turned up other record numbers.

Trump, Johnson sweep Wisconsin in historic night for RepublicansIn a historic sweep of battleground states that blindsided pollsters and analysts, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump claimed victory early Wednesday Read…

Incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson won a close race against Democratic candidate Russ Feingold, who lead by a single point in the last Marquette Law School poll before the election.

Republicans also won their largest majority in the state Assembly since 1956. Assembly Speaker Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, attributed the multi-level Republican wins to a desire for action by the American public. Assembly Minority Leader Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said in a statement he was disappointed with Republican wins all down the ballot.

“This certainly was a gut-wrenching and surprising election, and our state was swept in a Trump wave that upended the races for President, Congress, State Senate, and the State Assembly,” Barca said.

State legislators react to Republican sweep in state, national electionsIn the wake of Republicans winning their largest majority in the state Assembly since 1956, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Read…

The election results prompted multiple protests in Madison, one of which saw more than a thousand people gather at the Capitol to protest sexual assault and Trump’s negative comments toward minorities and women. State Street rang with cries of “not my president” and “Donald Trump has got to go” days after the election.

Students protest Trump’s presidency, proposed policiesMore than a thousand University of Wisconsin students and Wisconsin residents gathered at the Capitol Thursday evening to protest sexual Read…

Since the election, Trump has garnered criticism for his controversial cabinet appointments. As he worked to assemble his staff at the White House, Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein led recount efforts in three states, including Wisconsin. The results of the recount in Wisconsin revealed a net gain of 131 votes for Trump.

— Dana Kampa

With GOP control, Planned Parenthood faces uncertain future

Obama proposed a rule that would protect Planned Parenthood clinics across the nation from being defunded in September. But pro-choice advocates, including Planned Parenthood, expressed uncertainty on the ruling’s impact in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Republicans eliminated funding for Planned Parenthood in the 2011 budget bill. In 2016, a law mandating Wisconsin Department of Health Services to apply for Title X funding was signed, requiring Planned Parenthood to compete with the state for these funds. Another law could lower Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid reimbursements through the 340B prescription drug program.

State Senate votes to defund Planned ParenthoodThe State Senate voted in favor of two bills Wednesday that will defund Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, costing Read…

Additionally, after the August closing of an Appleton Planned Parenthood clinic, the state only has three abortion clinics left, two in Milwaukee and one in Madison.

At the same time, Wisconsin’s abortion rate also dropped for the sixth year in a row. While the defunding of Planned Parenthood might be a contributing factor, pro-choice organizations see the drop as evidence that contraception works. Pro-life organizations, however, see the decrease as evidence that more women are choosing life.

While Obama’s ruling cannot reverse laws that have already been implemented, it can pave the way for new bills that could potentially protect Planned Parenthood. But this may be difficult as Trump and Wisconsin’s large Republican majority would move to support pro-life efforts. Wisconsin Right to Life Executive Director Heather Weininger said this will protect unborn children.

Obama’s moves to protect Planned Parenthood will not impact WisconsinPresident Barack Obama’s efforts to permanently protect Planned Parenthood funding will have no impact in Wisconsin as experts believe the state’s Read…

Eliza Cussen, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin, said there is a possibility that Trump’s administration will work to restrict reproductive rights like birth control and abortion even more. Pro-choice advocates are expected to push policies against restricting reproductive rights in the upcoming biennium budget bill, Cussen said.

Wisconsin now has only two Planned Parenthood abortion clinicsPlanned Parenthood of Wisconsin is closing its Appleton abortion clinic, leaving the state with only three other centers that offer abortions. In Read…

Only Trump’s administration can repeal Obama’s rule should it pass. Wisconsin legislators alone cannot reverse it.

— Vidushi Saxena

Court rules GOP ‘unconstitutionally gerrymandered’ Wisconsin

A panel of judges ruled 2-1 on Nov. 21 that Wisconsin Republicans’ 2011 redistricting map was divided Democrat votes in a way that catered to Republican interests.

The two judges in the majority said the plans did not reflect political geography nor state interests and was “unfair.” They argued Republicans used techniques to place all Republican votes in one district and separate Democrat votes so no one district would have a Democrat majority.

UW journalism and political science professor Mike Wagner said very few Democrats are actually present in the state Legislature compared to the number of Democratic voters, which makes Wisconsin’s sets of districts “imbalanced.”  According to the decision, Republicans received more than 48 percent of Assembly candidate votes in 2012 but took 60 out of 99 seats. In 2014, they took 52 percent of the vote, but 63 seats.

Court rules Republican redistricting map unconstitutionalA panel of federal judges ruled Wisconsin Republicans’ 2011 state Assembly redistricting plans “unconstitutionally gerrymandered” to expand their majority and Read…

Assembly minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said in a statement that the panel’s decision is a “historic victory” for voters and will prevent Democratic votes from being subdued.

“Voters should be able to choose their representatives, not the other way around,” Barca said.

On the Republican side, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said he will appeal the decision. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said in a statement that Republicans win elections not because of gerrymandering, but because they are better candidates who “resonate” with voters.

The dissenting judge said the Supreme Court has acknowledged the impact partisanship has on cases like these and does not believe the maps were unconstitutional.

The panel has asked both sides of the case to propose solutions to alter and fix the redistricting process. Wagner said one solution to make redistricting more equitable could be to establish a non-partisan commission that clearly explains what can and cannot be done.

— Vidushi Saxena