University of Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank’s appearance at a Tuesday shared governance meeting was met with protests against white supremacy as she answered questions regarding the recent rise of an “alt-right” movement on campus.
The chancellor began her portion of the meeting discussing four agenda issues:
- The appointment of the new University of Wisconsin Police Chief Kristin Roman.
- Continued efforts for diversity and inclusiveness on campus.
- The 2017 budget plan.
- President Donald Trump’s executive immigration ban against majority-Muslim countries.
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On the matter of the immigration ban, Blank said approximately 150 people at UW are directly affected and efforts have been taken to reach out to these individuals. Blank said Trump’s “shut down” of American borders has been destructive to universities across the country.
Above all, however, the discussion centered on UW student Daniel Dropik’s recent proposal to start a Madison chapter of the American Freedom Party.
Blank stood by her previous statements on the topic, stating the administration would not kick Dropik out of the university if all he is doing is expressing opinions.
Despite concerns expressed by members of the audience that racist rhetoric may lead to racial violence, Blank insisted free speech is the baseline and the “system will come down where it comes down” if Dropik attracts a following or takes further steps to start a student organization.
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Though Blank stated several times Dropik’s words and actions are “personally offensive,” she stood firm in her conviction that unless violence is directly incited, he is allowed to speak freely.
Additional issues arose around Dropik’s felony record, which include two convictions of racially motivated arson.
The UW System’s admission application does not allow universities to review a student’s criminal history as part of the process. In a statement, however, Blank suggested the Board of Regents review this policy.
Though this could open doors to more racial issues, Blank said she believes criminal records should not be discounted in matters of admissions.
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As Blank finished her discussion, a student-led protest group disrupted the meeting chanting such things as “This is our university, fuck white supremacy,” “No more check box” and “Hey Becky, what’d you say, make these fascists go away!”
The group followed and continued to chant at Blank as she left out the doors of the Student Activity Center.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated Blank said universities should be entitled to the criminal records of students, potential students and staff. This is incorrect. Rather, Blank previously suggested the Board of Regents should review its policy on addressing criminal records. The Badger Herald regrets this error.