University of Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank rejected two of UW BIPOC Coalition’s 10 demands to improve the experience of BIPOC community members during a virtual Q&A session with student journalists on Tuesday.
Blank said that the demand involving the removal of the Abraham Lincoln statue from Bascom Hill was a “nonstarter,” and she does not think UWPD should be defunded. She also said that she is “disappointed” that the Associated Students of Madison voted no confidence in UWPD.
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Founder of the BIPOCatWisco Instagram account Djamal Lylecyrus said in a written statement to The Badger Herald that Blank has not prioritized BIPOC student demands.
“She’s too busy planning for football season and getting her home renovated to focus on the students she claims to care so much about,” Lylecyrus said.
She also said that she was disappointed ASM and other student groups had not attempted to meet with UWPD and university officials before voting no confidence in UWPD.
During the WebEx meeting, the UW BIPOC Coalition tweeted that Blank hasn’t chosen to meet with them. Lylecyrus said Blank must address BIPOC students’ experiences in order to evaluate UWPD.
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“Blank stated that she is aware that tensions between UWPD and students of color will be slow to ease,” Lylecyrus said. “However, a statement as such is demonstrating that Blank doesn’t care about the experiences of her students of color, because if she did she would do everything in her power to actively put these tensions to rest.”
Blank said she heard from students about feeling unsafe around police generally, but she has not heard of any specific complaints involving UWPD officers.
Lylecyrus said BIPOCatWisco, which aims to share the experiences of BIPOC on campus to increase their visibility, responded to this claim by re-sharing a specific complaint involving a UWPD officer and a student of color after the Webex meeting.
“Blank’s denial to meet with student leaders of the UW-Madison BIPOC Coalition and then claiming to have never heard specific instances of racism or prejudice regarding UWPD interactions with students of color is appalling,” Lylecyrus said. “How can Blank assert the University’s commitment to diversity and then opt-out of meeting with the students who have actually been doing the work necessary to reach true racial equity day in and day out while still managing their school work?”
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UW BIPOC Coalition’s petition similarly said that Blank is not doing enough to ensure BIPOC students are seen, heard or protected and respected on campus.
The petition had over 3,000 signatures as of Thursday.
“We need UWPD to at the very least comply with the standards of the 8 Can’t Wait campaign, presented by Campaign Zero,” Lylecyrus said. “We need Chancellor Blank to talk with us, and we need her to really listen.”
In a statement released on the Chancellor’s blog today, Blank wrote about initiatives campus leaders are working on to address diversity and inclusion at UW.
Some of the different sectors Blank wrote about include: faculty retention and student recruitment of BIPOC, new research funding from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education and UWPD’s Racial Equity initiative
Blank said it has been “heartening” to see students, faculty and staff across campus commit to meaningful action. Blank said she is “looking forward” to meeting with students to create change.
“I have heard from people who are feeling many things – anger, sadness, frustration, determination or numbness,” Blank said. “But it is what we do with our feelings, as we move forward together as a campus community, that will shape and define us.”