Student activists organized a petition Monday which calls on University of Wisconsin officials to improve the experience for BIPOC students on campus by taking direct action. 

The petition, entitled “BIPOC Demands for the University of Wisconsin-Madison,” came shortly after the March on Madison protest Aug. 29 in which hundreds of students marched throughout the campus in support of racial equality.

UW student activist Juliana Bennett said she and other students saw a need to create the petition and wanted to take action after Kenosha police shot 29-year-old Jacob Blake seven times in the back. As a result, Bennett said she and the other students formed the UW-Madison BIPOC Coalition.

Bennett said the group is currently working in collaboration with the Black Student Union, the Student Inclusion Coalition and BIPOCatwisco. Bennett said their goal is to eventually work with all of the marginalized identity-based student groups at UW.

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Specifically written to Chancellor Rebecca Blank, Dean of Students Christina Olstad and Associate Dean of Students Mick Miyamoto, the petition delineates what it describes as the repeated failures of the university to provide an inclusive campus environment that offers adequate support and protection to marginalized student groups. Over 2,500 individuals have signed the petition.

The petition began with a critique of a mass email sent to UW students supporting student protests and safety.

“The words of solidarity fell short,” the petition stated. “You are not doing enough to ensure that BIPOC students feel seen, heard, protected and respected on campus. You are failing your students.”

The petition said UW has only acted performatively in support of marginalized students, in contrast to real, concrete action. Additionally, the petition said UW is not motivated or willing to work with BIPOC students and organizations to improve their experience on campus.

As a result, the petition said UW fails to fulfill its motto of “together forward.” In order to do so, the petition said UW needs to address its hypocrisy and systemic racism.

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“BIPOC students feel as though they are nothing more than photo opportunities for a university that refuses to do the bare minimum to ensure they are welcomed, respected and included while on campus,” the petition stated.

The petition lists 10 demands collectively constructed by the BIPOC community on campus and in the greater Madison area, including the WBSU, SIC, LINK. Madison, Teaching Assistants’ Association, Sunrise Movement-Madison, Black Umbrella Global and Impact Demand.

Katie Hardie

Bennett said some of the demands have existed for over half a century, some proposed as far back as 1969.

“All of [the demands] should be of utmost priority,” Bennett said. “I know that’s cliche to say, but the demands are what the university can do to do the bare minimum for BIPOC students.”

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The demands include removing the Abraham Lincoln statue atop Bascom Hill, defunding the UW Police Department and creating a permanent framework for funding student organizations serving primarily underrepresented students.

Further, the petition advocates for the implementation of the TAA Platform for a Safe Restart for Fall 2020, instead of the current University’s Smart Restart plan. The alternative plan includes all-online instruction, full closure of campus housing facilities, lowered tuition costs and sustained reparations to Black and Indigenous communities.

In an email statement to The Badger Herald about the petition, Interim Chief Diversity Officer Cheryl Gittens and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Reesor said UW is seeing a wide range of demands from various student groups and they are planning to work with students directly.

“We’re listening closely and, as the academic year begins, will be reaching out to engage directly with students, including the students who organized this particular petition,” Gittens and Reesor said in the statement. “We believe that those conversations are essential to creating a way to move forward together with specific goals and commitments.”

UW spokesperson Meredith McGlone said UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank is organizing plans in coordination with the Campus Planning Committee for the removal of Chamberlin Rock at the request of the WBSU.

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McGlone said Blank is exploring other ways that UW President Chamberlin can be remembered by the university, as the monument itself is the concern, not the personal history of Chamberlin.

As stated in the petition, the 10 demands aim to create a more welcoming, safe campus environment for BIPOC students. UW sophomore and founder of BIPOCatWisco Jordan Joseph endorsed the petition and has been sharing it on the page, which currently has a following of over 8,000.

“For too long at this school, the voices of BIPOC students have been ignored. UW-Madison has proven to be unwelcoming, and at times unsafe, for its BIPOC students,” Joseph said. “UW-Madison, you need to do better by your BIPOC students.”