The Madison City Council rejected a resolution to call on the University of Wisconsin to switch to online classes and held a public hearing on the city’s proposed 2021 Operating Budget at a virtual meeting Tuesday.
In addition to calling for a transition to almost exclusively virtual education, the resolution called on UW to expand University Health Services’ testing capacity and not allow students to return to University Housing with some exceptions.
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Associated Students of Madison Chair Matthew Mitnick spoke in favor of the resolution, which campus alder and UW student Max Prestigiacomo authored.
“We have no clue what’s happening in the spring — students are going to go home for Thanksgiving, for winter break, and then everybody is going to come back to campus in the cold weather in a state where cases are so high,” Mitnick said. “We seriously think that revenue streams and profits are way more important to these people than student lives.”
Mitnick said that the University is not taking student and employee feedback into consideration. There have been multiple protests on campus calling for the University to instate a “moral restart” plan, which advocates for a switch to online classes.
UW Director of Community Relations Brenda González spoke in opposition of the resolution, outlining UW’s actions to curb the outbreak.
“It is no secret that cases spiked at the university earlier in the semester,” González said. “Because of our extensive testing we identified this problem quickly. We responded with a number of interventions including asking students to restrict their movements, pausing face to face instruction for two weeks and quarantining two resident halls.”
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González said the two-week pause allowed the school to bring the case count down significantly. She added that the campus positive rate has been around one percent for almost three weeks — below Dane County’s rate and the state’s rate.
The resolution failed in a 4-15 vote. The resolution would have had no legal binding effect even if it passed, Madison’s City Attorney Michael Haas said. The public hearing for the resolution calling on UW to modify its Smart Restart lasted just over two hours.
Public comments flooded the Council’s discussion on the 2021 operating budget. A majority of registrants spoke in opposition, mostly on the grounds that the budget did not reduce the police funding. The 2021 budget increases police funding by 3.2 percent to $88.4 million.
Freedom Inc. coordinator Mahnker Dahnweih spoke in opposition to the budget. The President of UW’s ACLU Student Alliance Ananda Deacon said more action needs to be taken on the police budget.
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“Please, please, please get this through all of your heads that even in the midst of a pandemic, in the midst of the biggest Black Lives Matter movement ever, in the midst of my midterms, I am here right now, making the time to speak here today because this is important — cutting the police budget by 80 percent at least and putting that money where it actually can provide housing and security is one of the most important things that this racist city may ever do,” Deacon said.
After hearing all the registrants, the council unanimously referred the budget to the Finance Committee.