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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


ASM Student Council hears concerns on Mecha, Wunk Sheek home displacement

Madison Mayor Rhodes-Conway speaks on housing, transportation, homelessness, reproductive rights, violence prevention, economic development, climate, democracy
ASM Student Council hears concerns on Mecha, Wunk Sheek home displacement
Maddie Bergstrom

Meeting attendees filled the Student Activity Center Hearing Room to capacity for the Associated Students of Madison Student Council meeting Wednesday night to discuss the University of Wisconsin’s plan of tearing down the Mecha and Wunk Sheek houses for a parking lot.

According to the Mecha website, the word “mecha” means “flame” in Spanish and represents the fight for liberation of all oppressed people. Mecha de UW-Madison is a student organization that promotes community engagement, culture, history, political participation and higher education, according to their website.

The student organization Wunk Sheek serves students who hold indigenous identities, along with individuals in the UW community who have interests in indigenous culture, issues and history.


Extra chairs lined the walls for those intending to speak, while over 80 individuals joined via Zoom. During the open forum, both students and alumni shared what Mecha and Wunk Sheek mean to them, along with concerns regarding affordable housing and the university’s promise of “Our Shared Future.”

UW student Josiah Gomez was the first to speak in the open forum about Mecha. For Gomez, Mecha provided a place to find and talk to similar-looking individuals, while also being a place of belonging for many.

Gomez said UW’s plan to displace Mecha without providing concrete plans for a location indicates the organization is not a priority for the university.

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“Instead of focusing on future events or community outreach, you are staying here in this room, facing a problem that should not exist in the first place,” Gomez said. “Instead of giving us our own space to build a community, the administration has suggested [we] go to the Red Gym … instead of placing us throughout campus — where our communities lie — we always end up being pushed into a small, overcrowded corner.”

Following Gomez, alumni Ismael Cuevas shared how these issues are reminiscent of issues from when Cuevas was a student almost 12 years ago.

Mecha is not an individual house, Cuevas said, but a national movement to get people of color recognized as part of the larger institution.

“Our safe space wasn’t Camp Randall or the Kohl Center,” Cuevas said. “Our safe space wasn’t going down State Street. Most of the time we actually had to find sanctuary in these homes.”

Students speaking on behalf of Wunk Sheek said this is the fourth time the university has displaced their home.

District 8 Alder and UW student Juliana Bennett, who spoke after Wunk Sheek, said people often forget whose land this is.

“It does not belong to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, it does not belong to the City of Madison, it does not belong to the state of Wisconsin,” Bennett said. “This is Ho-Chunk land. This is stolen land. And it’s bulls*** that land acknowledgments fall to the wayside, when actions demonstrate that homes in this community can be just as easily displaced as this land was once stolen.”

After the open forum expired, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway spoke to ASM for the first time, presenting information about housing, transportation, homelessness, reproductive rights, violence prevention, economic development, climate and democracy. Mecha was originally scheduled to speak before the mayor, but the agenda was adjusted due to time constraints.

Rhodes-Conway began by recognizing how important UW, particularly the student body, is to Madison.

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“[The] City of Madison is not what it is without UW students,” Rhodes-Conway said. “And there’s so many wonderful things about Madison that we are because of the presence of students in our city.”

Housing is the biggest and most challenging issue facing the city, with Madison currently in a housing crisis along with most of the country, Rhodes-Conway said. With the population of Madison growing, Rhodes-Conway said the city must attend to making sure housing is created affordably.

A Q&A was held after Rhodes-Conway’s presentation, where some individuals asked the mayor about the displacement of students.

“I apologize, and this is honestly the first I’ve heard that this was an issue, and so I don’t really have the background that I would need to speak intelligently about it,” Rhodes-Conway said. “I hear the passion and pain in everybody’s voices and that honestly hurts, I feel that — but I don’t know enough about the details of the issues to be able to speak to it.”

Rhodes-Conway said this is an issue the city does not have jurisdiction over, but would be happy to talk to the chancellor about the concerns.

Mecha de UW-Madison presented after the mayor, with 12 students representing the organization. Student Liana Bautista began by explaining the history of Mecha’s living situation on the UW campus.

“Mecha spanned directly from the National Chicano/Chicana movement in the 60s and 70s to provide a voice on campus for Chicano/Chicana students,” Bautista said. “At its core, Mecha has sought to promote higher education in Chicano/Chicana communities while creating safe and inclusive spaces where our culture will not be a race. In the past, we fought for university representation. Mecha spent two years trying to convince university officials about the need for a Chicano Studies Department. UW ignored our needs then, and still continues to ignore our needs now.”

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Bautista said UW intentionally ignores the importance of actual diversity on the campus, along with safe spaces. Instead, they try to put “every minority group into one building” — the Red Gym.

Mecha no longer only fights for Chicano/Chicana rights, but for the inclusivity of all those underrepresented, Bautista said.

“Why do I have to be here?” Bautista asked. “A lot of us here come to Mecha seeking a home and a place to belong. A place to connect with our peers, and some of us, even our own culture. We may not live at the Mecha house, but this is our home. It’s a place we cry at, a place we study at, a place we eat at and a place that we bonded. I am so tired of answering the question, ‘Why do you guys even deserve a space at all?’”

Some students voiced frustration with the mayor having to leave the meeting early due to time constraints.

The ASM Student Council passed three budgets following the presentation — the Student Activity Center, Student Judiciary and Student Services Finance Committee FY24 budgets. The council tabled the Continue to Raise Campaign legislation.

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