Our news team compiled summaries of some of this semester’s biggest stories. Read on to learn about students struggling through a pandemic, gender inclusivity activism, local labor strikes and more.

UW students petition for wellness days after spring break cancellationStudents typically take time to relax during spring break, but with no break this year concerns are rising around mental Read…

Students petition for Wellness Days

Concerns about mental health arose over the lack of spring break this year. After dealing with the pandemic for a year, students craved a break.

A petition for “wellness days” was started by University of Wisconsin freshman Amelia Zanin, who felt “mentally drained.”

The petition gained about 3,900 signatures, mostly from students. Other local campuses did not cancel spring break, according to the petition.

While UW did schedule three wellness days, they were on Friday, Saturday and Sunday which didn’t help out the average student much. The petition called for a longer break.

Another petitioner, UW sophomore Teddy Brodzinski, said the university showed disregard for students, and many students still had spring break plans regardless of the cancellation of instruction due to the nature of online classes.

UW Director of News and Media Relations Meredith McGlone said any change in the spring calendar at that point in the semester would disrupt classes.

Assistant Vice Chancellor of University Communications John Lucas said when the decision to cancel spring break was made in September, they did not anticipate the stress students would feel due to the lack of a break. Lucas added that faculty are also tired.

Other staff supported the decision, including Director of Research Communications Kelly Tyrell. If students traveled, it could lead to higher infection rates and potentially another shutdown, Tyrell said.

“Our responsibility on campus is to consider both the needs of our individual students and our individual faculty members and also the needs of our greater community,” Tyrell said.

In effort to make the rest of the semester feel more manageable for students, the Provost Office sent instructors a message encouraging them to promote student wellbeing, Lucas said. It emphasized the importance of mental health, especially at this time in the semester.

SARJ petitions to rename Women’s Health Clinic to promote more inclusive careThe Student Alliance for Reproductive Justice created a petition for University Health Services to rename their Women’s Health Clinic to Read…

SARJ petitions to rename Women’s Health Clinic

The Student Alliance for Reproductive Justice created a petition for University Health Services to rename their Women’s Health Clinic to the Reproductive Health Clinic.

The Women’s Health Clinic provides gynecological services, cervical cancer screening and prevention, treatment and prevention of STIs, contraceptive counseling, discussion of pregnancy options, sensitive care after sexual assault and much more, according to the UHS website.

Director of Collaborative for Reproductive Equity Jenny Higgins thinks the change would make a lot of sense and is overdue in some ways. She believes the proposed new name would reflect that not all people who need reproductive healthcare services identify as women.

SARJ President Maya Cherins was frustrated with the initial response SARJ received from their contact with UHS, and believes the response was empty and did not show UHS was listening.

In the email statement to SARJ, Interim Director of UHS Patrick Kelly said UHS is committed to providing a welcoming environment for the entire campus community so all students are able to access the medical services that are provided. According to Kelly, the university’s medical trans team worked to make sure the services provided by the Women’s Health Clinic are accessible in a safe space.

Head of the UHS Marketing and Health Communications Team Marlena Holden said the Health Care Advisory Committee is supportive of looking into more inclusive names.

Cherins heard a lot of positive feedback from the student body about the petition, including from gender-diverse students who believe the name change would benefit them. Many of the students she talked to believe the change would be a good thing and see it as long overdue.

In their petition, SARJ stated the proposed change is not an immediate solution to reproductive injustices but it is a step in the right direction.

UW Libraries announce call for proposals for contributions of essays focused on students’ experiencesThe University of Wisconsin Libraries announced a call for proposals for contribution to an anthology of student-written essays focusing on Read…

UW Libraries call for student essays

The University of Wisconsin Libraries called for students to submit essay proposals to an anthology project focusing on student experiences and how their identities inform those experiences.

This call for proposals is a part of the UW Black, Indigenous and People of Color Student Voices Reader project in which students share their experiences at UW, in Madison or in Wisconsin, according to the project’s press release.

UW Libraries’ Diversity Resident Librarian for Open Educational Resources and the project’s editor Kristin Lansdown said the goal is to have the reader incorporated into UW courses to localize the experience of BIPOC students.

The project sought undergraduate students from UW who are Indigenous, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latinx, Middle Eastern and North African or Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander or who identify with more than one of those groups to contribute and submit proposals to this project. Students with multiple identities in gender, sexual orientation, disability, income status or other marginalized groups are also strongly encouraged to contribute, according to the project’s press release.

Students interested in the project can submit their proposals in three areas — context, voices or towards justice. The sections allow students to address BIPOC history, identity and how to address justice and liberation.

The Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement will compensate students who participate $200 through an Innovation Grant.

The project hopes to aid the UW Student Inclusion Coalition’s priority of addressing racism and discrimination that BIPOC students face on campus. In October 2020, SIC released the ‘Home is Where WI Aren’t’ video showing a list of things UW needed to do to provide all students with a more inclusive campus.

After the formation of SIC in 2019, this project was conceptualized by Landsdown.

UWPD to require additional vetting for officers at UW football gamesAccording to the Wisconsin State Journal, the University of Wisconsin Police Department will require extra vetting for police officers working Read…

UWPD to require additional vetting for officers at UW football games

The University of Wisconsin Police Department announced it would implement additional vetting procedures for officers working at UW football games in the fall of 2021.

The move came in response to concerns alleging police misconduct by UWPD which gained traction during the Black Lives Matter protests throughout the summer of 2020. In September of 2020, the Associated Students of Madison passed a vote of no confidence in UWPD.

This fall, UWPD said it will take steps to ensure officers who are called in from various cities and towns across Wisconsin on game days have not previously violated civil rights or been cited for the use of excessive force.

The initiative came to fruition after UW athletics requested an in-depth review of the vetting process for police officers arriving from outside of Madison on game days.

UWPD said they felt a need to bring in additional officers for home football games because the increased activity on campus heightens the possibility of criminal acts occurring. A study conducted by the University of Kentucky concluded that seven more crimes are reported during home games than away games on college campuses.

Madison in particular has a reputation for disorderly conduct during football games. In 2016, 344 fans were ejected from Camp Randall Stadium — a figure higher than the national average.

Several UW students, including ASM chair Matthew Mitnick, voiced concerns that UWPD may fail to deliver on its promises for reform. Mitnick said he is unsatisfied with the statements UWPD issued and hopes to see concrete action.

“That’s just playing politics,” Mitnick said.

Nurses at UnityPoint Health – Meriter Hospital agree to ratify a two-year agreement following weeks of debateNurses at UnityPoint Health – Meriter Hospital agreed to ratify a two-year agreement following weeks of debate with the hospital. Read…

Nurses at UnityPoint Health – Meriter Hospital agree to ratify a two-year agreement following weeks of debate

A group of Nurses at UnityPoint Health – Meriter Hospital spent weeks negotiating a two-year contractual agreement between themselves and their employer in late March.

Over 98% of nursing staff voted to allow the existing contract to expire in the hopes of drawing up a new arrangement which would improve worker protections following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Requests made by the nurses included longer paid sick leave, higher salaries and replenished medical leave for employees who exhausted their time off due to health complications related to COVID-19.

Several nurses also alleged their employer, Meriter Hospital, harassed and attempted to intimidate employees seeking bolstered benefits.

The new contract includes several key provisions: nurses can renegotiate contracts in the event of another pandemic, financial incentives were added for overtime work, a 2.6% wage increase was implemented and nurses will receive greater financial support should they choose to pursue higher education.

The push for a more labor-friendly contract was spearheaded by the Service Employees International Union’s Wisconsin chapter. SEIU is currently the fastest growing healthcare labor union, with 15,000 members in Wisconsin alone.

SEIU Wisconsin co-chair, Suzi Kossel said her organization plans to support the efforts of other nurses in hospitals statewide to unionize and collectively bargain.

“UW and St. Mary’s nurses both deserve the ability to unionize and the nurses at Meriter are in full support and look forward to advocating for their voices as well,” Kossel said.

UW organizations respond to Atlanta shootings, provide support to the APIDA communitySeveral University of Wisconsin organizations arranged events for individuals to process or speak on the March 16 Atlanta shootings which Read…

 UW organizations respond to Atlanta shootings, provide support to the APIDA community

Following a string of shootings which occurred in Atlanta on March 16 and targeted primarily Asian American women, several student organizations at the University of Wisconsin held demonstrations against the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes seen throughout the United States after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the groups which held demonstrations was the UW BIPOC coalition, whose Asian Lives Matter protest drew a crowd of hundreds to Madison’s downtown. 

The UW Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Experience also published a statement discussing the shootings, encouraging students to attend their monthly affinity sessions.

UW released its own statement regarding the Atlanta attacks and the overall spike in violence targeting Asian Americans, however, many students were unimpressed by UW’s written sentiments.

“Some of the statements [UW] released were tone-deaf at best and just didn’t really cover what I hoped the university would cover,” UW student, Meun Wang said.

Students also grew frustrated with what some described as “pop-up” mental health services for students of color on campus following tragedies.

UW student Lisa Yang said she believes UW could improve the campus experience for Asian American students if the university were willing to invest in permanent mental wellness infrastructure long term.

“I think it’s really messed up that [UW] keeps doing these crisis pop-ups for mental health when they can systematically really invest in therapists for our communities,” Yang said.