Our news team compiled a summary of this semester’s biggest stories. Read on to learn about the departure of the University of Wisconsin’s top administrator, booming enrollment rates and the long-anticipated arrival of a co-responder model on campus. 

Chancellor Rebecca Blank to leave UW at end of 2021-22 academic year

Moving on: Blank reflects on challenges of her chancellorship and where UW goes from hereThe Chancellor’s Office in the east wing of Bascom Hall has been home to Rebecca Blank for the past eight Read…

Chancellor Rebecca Blank announced in October she will leave UW at the end of the 2021-22 academic year to become the president of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Blank will succeed Northwestern’s 17th president Morton Schapiro and become the first female president in Northwestern’s history.

Blank began her chancellorship at UW in 2013 and is the longest-serving chancellor since 1986. Under Blank’s leadership, UW’s six-year graduation rate reached its highest rate ever at 89%. The graduation gap for undergraduates between white students and historically underrepresented students has been cut nearly in half over the last 10 years, and institutional scholarship aid has quadrupled — from $25 million in 2012 to almost $100 million this year.

In an interview with student journalists, Blank said she was excited for the new opportunities to come from running a smaller, private university. Blank said she is “tired of fighting the same fights,” specifically with the Wisconsin State Legislature.

Blank hopes the recently-formed committee searching for her successor will ask candidates about student life, students of color and sustainability — hoping the next chancellor will “build on what’s been done.”

“It’s not my job to give very much advice to my successor,” she said. “They get to figure it out on their own.”

Multi-million private donations to fund UW facilities

October brought a slew of private donations to UW. UW announced plans to construct a $225 million building for the School of Computer, Data and Information Sciences at the launch event in September. By October, the university had garnered $175 million in private investments.

UW alumni John and Tashia Morgridge donated $125 million to the project as a way to give back to the university, including $50 million through a one-to-one match.

UW announces $175 million in private investments for School of Computer, Data, Information SciencesThe University of Wisconsin announced plans to construct a $225 million building for the School of Computer, Data and Information Read…

UW is also raising funds to construct a new Letters and Science Academic building on the corner of Park and Johnson streets to replace the Humanities Building, which Blank has deemed “no longer functional.”

Brothers and UW alumni Jeff and Marv Levy donated $20 million toward the construction of the building in honor of their late parents who also attended UW. The total cost of the project is $95 million.

UW receives $20 million donation for new Letters and Sciences buildingThe University of Wisconsin will construct a new Letters and Science Academic building on the corner of Park and Johnson Read…

Though the $60 million from the government and $20 million from the Levys make up the bulk of funding, UW is still short $15 million, leaving approximately 16% of the project unfunded.

Redistricting maps propose student district split

City redistricting threatened to split undergraduate dorms, raising concerns from studentsAs Madison redraws aldermanic districts to accommodate the city’s disproportionate population growth over the last decade, District 8 — which Read…

As Madison worked to redraw aldermanic districts to accommodate the city’s disproportionate population growth over the last decade, several proposals recommended breaking up District 8 — which encompasses much of the UW campus.

District 8 grew from a population of 10,220 in 2010 to 15,454 in 2020 — about a 51% increase over the decade. Under redistricting targets set by the city, each aldermanic district should have roughly 13,739 residents with a five percent deviation above or below, meaning District 8 had to lose at least 1,000 residents to be on the high end of the target range.

Two of the redistricting options proposed by the city — Concept 5a and Concept 6 — would have accomplished this by splitting some residence halls and a student-dominated housing area into separate districts. The proposed maps would move the two areas into District 5, which comprises more affluent, single-family homes.

The options provoked concerns about the representation of the UW student voice in the city council but ultimately the community feedback led to the creation of a new map recommendation that will keep the UW student population together.

UW’s enrollment increases, contrary to national trends

As enrollment at US colleges drops, UW sees ‘significant increases’Across the country, colleges have bombarded prospective students with mailed brochures, pamphlets and personalized emails in recent years, and now Read…

Across the country, colleges have bombarded prospective students with mailed brochures, pamphlets and personalized emails in recent years, and now livestreams, digital information sessions and virtual tours in the COVID-19 era.

It’s all been in response to fewer people enrolling in higher education institutions in America. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, between fall of 2009 and 2019, the total undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions decreased from 17.5 million to 16.6 million students, even before the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

But the University of Wisconsin is not a part of these statistics.

UW enrollment has increased from 43,336 in the fall of 2016 to 47,936 students in the fall of 2021, steadily growing over the last five years — unlike some other colleges in the U.S. UW’s most recently admitted class of 2025 is the largest freshman class in the school’s history.

“We didn’t set out to enroll a class of this size, but to be a ‘hot’ school nationally is not a bad problem to have,” Blank said in her State of the University address.

UW launches co-responder model on campus

United in action: UW students rally to reimagine public safety on Wisconsin campusesUW-Eau Claire student activists were shocked when members of their football team, who mocked a Black Male Empowerment group by Read…

The University of Wisconsin Police Department and University Health Services launched a co-responder pilot program this fall. Historically, UWPD responded to mental-health related calls alone, and if someone needed to be hospitalized, the police were called to accompany and transport them.

The pilot program changes this response model by sending clinicians to respond to mental health-related calls with officers and offering students the option to ride to the hospital in an unmarked UHS vehicle with clinicians in the place of police.

The implementation of UW’s pilot came as the city of Madison launched their own crisis response system, the Community Alternative Response Emergency Service program, also known as CARES. CARES sends mental health workers and a paramedic to address mental health crises, eliminating police from the situation entirely.

While UW students were able to achieve a co-responder model and an alternative to police transport, ASM Chair Adrian Lampron said student government will keep pushing for a dedicated crisis response system based on the City of Madison’s model.

In recognition of students’ tense relationship with UWPD that has roots going back to long before last year, District 8 Ald. Juliana Bennett believes UW and other higher education institutions should take tangible steps toward restructuring police departments into scaled-down campus security models that focus less on punitive measures like citations and more on the well-being of students during the crucial development years in their lives.

“I would like to see a model that is more focused on catching the issues before they happen and … on recovery and learning, because that’s why we are here on this campus,” Bennett said. “Not just education-wise, but we’re learning as human beings to be better people, and I think our public safety system should reflect that.”

Omicron hits Madison, UW campus at semester’s end

UPDATED: ‘Large portion’ of omicron cases in Dane County identified on UW campusAs of Dec. 21, almost 150 omicron cases have been identified in Dane County — a jump from the initial Read…

Following a semester that saw low case loads and high vaccination rates at UW, omicron surged on campus in the final days of the semester — smashing finals’ schedules and holiday travel plans for students.

The UW campus saw a spike in positive COVID-19 test results. As of Dec. 20, the seven-day average for positive tests in the student population was 39, the highest it has been since the start of the fall semester, according to the UW COVID-19 Dashboard.

As of Dec. 21, almost 150 omicron cases were identified in Dane County — a jump from the initial three cases identified Dec. 16 a mere five days before. PHMDC said they expect the number of omicron cases to continue increasing rapidly as more cases are sequenced.

A “large portion” of omicron cases in the surge were identified on the UW campus, PHMDC spokesperson Sarah Mattes said in an email statement to The Badger Herald. Cases were, however, rapidly being identified across the United States, Mattes added.

“We’d note that any number is constantly changing, not only on campus but also in the county — and likely represents only a fraction of the cases,” university spokesperson John Lucas said in a statement. “We can assume that as testing continues, we will see more omicron presence on and off campus.”