From crime to politics and everything in between, there has never been a dull moment of reporting this semester. Here are the biggest stories from the fall of 2018.
UW reviews DeVos’s proposed changes to Title IX law
The University of Wisconsin made the decision in November to examine Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s proposed changes to how schools should address sexual assault and misconduct.
DeVos narrowed the definition of on-campus sexual harassment from one provided by former President Barack Obama, who classified it as “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.”
Outlined in the proposal, DeVos’s definition divided harassment into three categories: Unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe it denies a person equal access to an education program or activity, harassment in the workplace or classroom and sexual assault.
DeVos’s suggested changes included allowing those accused of sexual misconduct to cross-examine their accusers using a representative and measures to help support the accused, such as course adjustments and counseling.
“Every survivor of sexual violence must be taken seriously, and every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined,” DeVos said in a statement to USA Today.
The Madison Rape Crisis Center issued a statement following the proposal that opposed the suggested changes, stating that new rules would negatively impact sexual misconduct and assault survivors.
The RCC objected that the proposal granted accusers new rights and seemingly would make sexual assault or misconduct even harder to prove.
The UW System released a response to the proposal as well. Spokesperson Heather LaRoi explained that the UW System would be reviewing DeVos’s proposal using their existing Title IX task force.
LaRoi said the task force wanted to fully examine what the proposed changes would imply.
The UW System said they are committed to preventing sexual harassment and violence through the upholding of policies that would allow them to do so, LaRoi said.
Quintez Cephus set to stand trial after pleading not guilty, suing UW for alleged due process violation
UW wide receiver Quintez Cephus pled not guilty in October to the charges of second-degree sexual assault of an intoxicated victim and third-degree sexual assault.
Judge William Hanrahan gave the prosecution and defense 30 days to file motions for discovery.
Two days earlier, Cephus filed a federal case in the U.S. District Court against UW.
Cephus claimed the university violated his constitutional rights by conducting a disciplinary investigation while he could not participate due to his ongoing criminal investigation.
Andrew Miltenberg, attorney for the federal case, said UW was misusing its role as educators by depriving Cephus of his Miranda rights, while also “turning a blind eye” to alleged exculpatory evidence.
“This is not the message that educators should be delivering to African American young men,” Miltenberg said in a statement.
UW began a Title IX investigation based on the alleged sexual assault, but the federal lawsuit calls for a suspension of UW’s disciplinary hearings until Cephus’s criminal case ends.
Meredith McGlone, UW spokesperson, said UW followed the standard practice common among many universities to conduct investigations into student misconduct allegations outside of the criminal justice system for all types of misconduct, including those of a sexual nature.
“We are confident that our processes related to these types of investigations comply with federal law,” McGlone said.
McGlone referenced the 2001 Revised Sexual Harassment Guidance, which she said states a criminal investigation does not excuse universities from their obligation to conduct their own investigations.
Stephen Meyer, Cephus’s criminal case lawyer, claimed to have seen videos detailing interactions between Cephus and the victims on the night in questions that allegedly support the affidavit he filed for a motion to dismiss.
Meyer could not disclose further information about the content of the videos because of ethics rules.
Following sexual assault allegations against UW football player, public response mirrors a troubling trendEditor’s note: Trigger Warning, this story contains depictions of sexual assault. When Madison police arrived at UnityPoint Health – Meriter Read…
ASM approves new window signage bylaw
The Associated Students of Madison passed a new bylaw requiring signage placed in the windows their office to be approved by a student council vote after the removal of a large Black Lives Matter sign from the office sparked debate.
Equity and Inclusion Chair Agalia Ardyasa, Rep. Paul Jackson II and Rep. Jared Lang proposed legislation that would reintroduce the BLM sign to the ASM office window and create a procedure for introducing new signage. The legislation was introduced in response to the removal of a BLM sign, which was taken down from the window during a cleaning of the office.
ASM Chair Billy Welsh said the sign was removed because it was in disrepair. Some of the sponsors of the legislation said the council should have had input in the decision.
“For me personally, if [the sign] ever had to be taken down, it would have to be through a vote of the student council,” Ardyasa said. “It should be a vote of you all and a representation of the whole school community.”
The BLM sign had been a point of controversy since it was introduced two years ago by former ASM Chair Carmen Goséy and former Vice Chair Miriam Coker. ASM received complaints from several individuals who said they perceived the sign as a partisan stance, despite the fact that ASM is a nonpartisan body.
Welsh said the moment was a good opportunity to get input on the sign and set up a procedure for handling the situation in the future.
In the following meeting, ASM introduced a bylaw amendment which would require signage to be voted on by the council before being displayed. After two unanimous votes, ASM approved the bylaw change. The BLM legislation was tabled indefinitely because half of the proposal was made redundant by the new bylaw.
No legislation to replace the BLM sign was reintroduced during the ASM fall session.
One dead in State Street Campus Ramp shooting
Oct. 28 marked the fifth Madison shooting this year, taking place at the State Street Campus Ramp after Freakfest.
Shooter suspect Kenyairra Gadson pled not guilty to a charge of intentional homicide after being released with a $100,000 bail. She was arrested after being recognized by victim Steven Villegas’s sister.
According to the incident report, MPD originally attributed the violence to a dispute in Whiskey Jack’s saloon the prior night, though that was later proven false.
“Surveillance images and information from witnesses assisted detectives in identifying Gadson. She was taken into custody without incident,” the MPD incident report stated.
While Gadson filed a criminal complaint claiming that she didn’t mean to shoot Villegas, she simply meant to distract a group of people attacking her and her friends, Villegas’s mother claimed otherwise. She said that during a fight the day before, someone Gadson was with had said to “shoot that (expletive) with the dreads, he was with them,” in reference to Villegas.
MPD Spokesman Joel DeSpain said while five shootings is relatively low, compared to numbers reaching the double digits for the last two years each, homicides continue to be an important issue for city officials.
UW freshmen declare candidacy
In November, two University of Wisconsin freshmen declared they are running for the campus district in the Madison City Council.
Their announcement came shortly after incumbent Ald. Zach Wood said he would not seek reelection.
“I have always believed that representation matters, especially in government. That’s why I ran for this seat in the first place,” Wood wrote on Facebook. “I no longer believe I am the person to best fill the role, and I have no qualms about stepping aside and creating room for new, young leaders in our community to step up.”
Avra Reddy, 19, and Matthew Mitnick, 18, announced their candidacy and stated their hopes of change within the Madison community.
Inspired by various political campaigns and the recent record-breaking number of women who ran for office, Reddy decided she wanted to run.
“These women have inspired me to make a difference in a new way,” Reddy wrote on Facebook. “Together we will fight for more affordable housing, and increased safety on campus; we will fight for student rights and change in our community.”
Mitnick, on the other hand, cites his experience in politics, which made him want to run. In addition to interning with the Associated Students of Madison and the Wisconsin League of Conservation, Mitnick founded a student chapter of the International City/County Management association. This chapter is a professional management and education organization which advocates for effective local government.
With his previous experience and from watching his parents who were both public servants, Mitnick says he knows what it means to be in local government.
“Students should have the ability to express their opinions to enact change,” Mitnick said. “As my constituent, you will be my boss — I will work for you to make our community better and stronger.”
Mitnick would like to see affordable housing, student engagement, flood prevention, safety and social justice in Madison. According to his press release, he has been endorsed by Dane County Board Supervisor Tanya Buckingham.
The District 8 seat covers most of UW’s campus, including all of university housing. The primary for the seat will be held Feb. 19, and elections will be held April 2.
Soglin to run for another term
Despite claiming he would not seek re-election in the next campaign for mayor of Madison, Soglin is doing just that.
Some political opponents of Soglin urged for change in the wake of this decision, though.
Despite her support for him over his many years as mayor, Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, said Soglin should not have changed his mind about running for another term.
Instead, Berceau endorsed Satya Rhodes-Conway, a former alder and the current managing director for the Mayor’s Innovation Project at the Center on Wisconsin Strategy.
“I have been a big supporter of [Soglin] over the years and he’s been a great mayor,” Berceau said. “I think he’s left us with a good foundation to remain a vibrant city, but that I do think that there are others who should be given the chance to take the helm.”
Soglin said he felt emboldened to run again after he began to see better consensus amongst the city council in terms of how to best deal with problems in the city — poverty and inequality being the biggest two.
Soglin said it took a while for City Council to understand where progress was needed for low-income neighborhoods, rather than just funding public works projects. Proposals that Soglin introduced in the past are beginning to pass now.
“We’re finally getting this movement, and I would like to make sure that we get this institutionalized,” Soglin said. “I’d like to make sure that it becomes a permanent fixture in our community.”
Soglin criticized six of his opponents who said they want change, saying they need to be specific about the kind of change they are looking for if they want to replace him.
Soglin said he has brought change to Madison by putting it on the map as one of the best tech cities, reducing violence and arrests and improving the housing situation.
“Change can be a hollow word — change in what way?” Soglin said. “When I said I would bring change to the city of Madison eight years ago, I kept that promise.”
Wisconsin voters express majority approval of marijuana legalization in Nov. 6 referendum
Nov. 6, the majority of voters in 16 Wisconsin counties and two cities approved of marijuana legalization in their responses to referendum questions that appeared on election ballots.
More than 81 percent of people voted in favor of medical marijuana, while more than 644,000 voters approved of recreational marijuana to the nearly 281,000 who did not.
The advisory referendum was essentially a “glorified straw poll” and had no direct legislative impact.
But Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, believes the results could influence policy change. Taylor, a strong supporter of medical legalization, expressed pride in college-aged voters, who she believes had a significant impact on the governor’s race.
Taylor sought to legalize medical marijuana back in 2017 with Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, through The Compassionate Cannabis Care Act.
“Everyone has somebody who’s had a debilitating disease in their life,” Taylor said. “It is well past time to legalize medical marijuana for the sake of these suffering families and suffering patients.”
Taylor supports recreational legalization as well, but passing laws on medical use is her priority.
Alan Robinson, the communications director for the Madison Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, is an outspoken proponent of total legalization. He believes marijuana is only dangerous because it is illegal, explaining that a friend of his consumed marijuana that was laced with fentanyl, something he said would not happen if cannabis was legalized and regulated.
In addition to safety concerns, Robinson said total legalization would benefit Wisconsin, and Madison specifically, similarly to how it benefited Colorado, which was one of the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes.
“I think [recreational marijuana legalization] would absolutely change the face and the complexion of Madison,” Robinson said. “We would absolutely see a revolution of industry.”
Wisconsin Blue Wave
While the November election wasn’t the expected nationwide blue wave, Wisconsin voters gave Democrats two big wins with the election of state Education Superintendent Tony Evers as governor and the reelection of incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.
After a close race for governor, Evers won Wisconsin’s gubernatorial election by a 1.1 percent margin.
Evers bested Walker by more than 180,000 votes in the Democratic stronghold of Dane County. Throughout the state, Evers performed well in Milwaukee and the southwest corner of the state, while Walker found most of his support in the state’s northeastern counties.
Ever’s will be sworn in as the next governor of Wisconsin in early Jan. 2019. The office of governor will be on the ballot again in 2022.
Election 2018: Live results for gubernatorial, U.S. Senate racesThis post will be updated periodically throughout election night. Results shown here may not reflect real-time numbers. Millions throughout the country voted Read…
Baldwin’s win, on the other hand, was by a much larger margin, defeating Republican competitor Leah Vukmir by roughly 10 points.
Baldwin commended Vukmir on her 16 years in the Wisconsin state Legislature and commented on how Democrat’s work is not over.
“In order to fix what is broken with Washington, and in order to fix what’s broken with our divisive politics, you all need to stay engaged,” Baldwin said. “You cannot stop with this victory. You cannot stop because I assure you the special interests won’t.”
Baldwin’s Senate seat will be on the ballot again in 2024. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin is up for election again in 2022.