The Badger Herald Editorial Board deemed the following stories important to watch throughout the semester.
Spaces on campus named after KKK members
Following a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville last fall, UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank commissioned a study group to investigate the UW’s history of inequity and exclusion. The report issued by the study group in April of this year revealed a racist and exclusionary campus climate during the 20th century, as well as the existence of two student organizations on campus during the early 1920s with differing degrees of relation to the Ku Klux Klan. Members of these organizations included influential alumni of UW, including Fredric March and Porter Butts, the latter of whom was the director of the Wisconsin Union for 40 years. Both men, until August, had student programming spaces named after them within Memorial Union.
Although the study group neither advocated for the removal nor supported keeping the names in the union, the Union Council voted at the beginning of August to remove Butts’ and March’s names from the spaces previously occupied after students, faculty and members of the community expressed discomfort with their presence. The report suggested a number of ways the university could begin to rectify its troubling history, including increasing funding for certain programs and departments, increasing recruitment and retainment at the university for non-majority students and faculty, and creating spaces on campus where students can interact with and learn from the university’s past.
Looking forward to the fall semester, the responsibility to enact meaningful change, make progress in addressing UW’s racist history and improve the current experience of non-majority students on campus rests on the shoulders of university administration, faculty and students.
Quintez Cephus trial
University of Wisconsin junior wide receiver Quintez Cephus was charged Aug. 20 with two counts of sexual assault after an incident which allegedly occurred in April 2018. Also implicated in the case was sophomore and fellow football player Danny Davis.
According to the official complaint, one woman initially notified police the morning of April 22 about the alleged incident. When officers arrived on the scene, they noted a strong smell of alcohol and one woman was barely able to lift her head and did not open her eyes for the entirety of her interview with police. One woman identified Cephus to police and said she remembered waking up in the middle of the night to Cephus and Davis standing over her laughing and taking pictures. The second woman claimed she was so intoxicated the night quickly became a blur. She claims to not remember arriving home, visiting Cephus’ apartment or having sex with the accused, all of which the first woman informed her of.
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Cephus was charged with second and third-degree sexual assault of two intoxicated women. Cephus and his defense team have both vehemently denied the allegations. Cephus released a statement on Twitter proclaiming his innocence. His defense lawyers have named surveillance footage the night of the incident and text messages between Cephus and one of the women as key pieces of evidence they believe prove the women were sober enough to provide consent.
Cephus announced a leave of absence from the team two days before charges were filed. After the release of charges, Wisconsin Football coach Paul Chryst suspended wide receiver Danny Davis for two games for his alleged involvement in the incident.
Cephus is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing Sept. 11. In the wake of former University of Wisconsin student Alec Cook’s brief, three-year sentence for the sexual assault of a multitude of women, the decision in Cephus’ case weighs heavy as it progresses.
Conservative Supreme Court implications
After nearly three decades on the Supreme Court, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced his abrupt retirement June 27. The longtime justice had aligned more closely to the political right, but often represented the swing vote in a split court — notably including the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling which legalized gay marriage across the country.
Less than two weeks later, President Trump announced Brett M. Kavanaugh, a U.S. District Court judge, as his nominee to replace Kavanaugh. Widely regarded as a well-connected member of Washington’s conservative legal community, Kavanaugh, if confirmed, will likely shift the court’s collective ideology considerably to the right.
Questions of constitutionality loom after Supreme Court rules against objections to Republican-drawn state districtsThe U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday against the claim made by many state Democrats that Wisconsin’s Republican-drawn legislative maps Read…
A conservative Supreme Court will have sweeping implications for landmark cases, including Roe v. Wade and Affirmative Action, both of which could impact students directly. While it’s speculative to suggest the court will overturn either decision outright, there is concern that, through a series of cases, the court could chip away at the legitimacy of past decisions, granting states the right to make their own decisions on previously resolute rulings.
The latter scenario is far more likely than an explicit overturning, but potentially just as consequential. The gradual dismantling of both abortion rights and measures to provide historically underrepresented groups greater access to higher education are very real possibilities should Kavanaugh be confirmed. A long-time push to establish a conservative majority in the Supreme Court could hit students and young women harshest, a possibility creeping toward reality with Kennedy’s retirement.
In October 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency to address the national opioid crisis. This crisis has stemmed from misinformation spread by pharmaceutical companies 1990s. The companies reassured medical professionals that opioid pain relievers were not addictive, so healthcare providers began prescribing them more frequently. Consequently, misuse of prescription and non-prescription opioids soared before it became apparent they were highly addictive, leading to the public health crisis we know today.
Wisconsin was not spared from opioid-related fatalities. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported that 827 Wisconsinites died from opioid-related deaths in 2016. Since 2000, the number of deaths related to opioid abuse in Wisconsin increased by 600 percent. This growth has not gone unnoticed — as of November 2017, 28 pieces of bipartisan legislation have been signed into Wisconsin state law in order to fight this public health crisis.
County Board votes to join statewide lawsuit against opioid manufacturersThe Dane County Board of Supervisors voted Thursday to allow the county’s Office of Corporation Counsel to select an outside Read…
On a local level, the epidemic is far from over. The Madison Police Department discovered a bad batch of heroin August 26. Eight reported overdoses in 48 hours suggests the batch may have been contaminated with fentanyl, a narcotic up to 50 times more potent than heroin. However, hope is not far off. U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., proposed and is awaiting passage of the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues Act. The SOFA Act would make it easier for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to intercept and ban fentanyl-related drugs. Although public policy may not be the sole way to end the opioid crisis, many hope to see an improvement after the passage of the SOFA Act. The fate of opioid users, however, remains to be seen.
UW campus merger
The Board of Regents approved a restructuring program for UW System schools late last year. As of July 1, the program resulted in eleven of the System’s two-year schools being renamed, as they are becoming branch campuses of four-year system schools. For example, the two-year campuses at Waukesha and Washington County are now UW-Milwaukee at Waukesha and UW-Milwaukee at Washington County. UW System officials rationalize the restructuring program as necessary due to a decline in two-year college enrollment and an aging demographic across the state.
UW Cooperative Extension is due to be absorbed by UW-Madison. The reorganization is hoped to create a cost-effective, active extension for the entire state. Although the renaming of two-year schools became official last month, many of the two-year campuses will be operating without any changes throughout the 2018-2019 academic year. The operational planning and centralized services between the two types of campuses will likely not go into effect until the 2019-2020 academic year. Looking forward to the fall semester, the repercussions of the merger are likely to remain unseen, but The Badger Herald is committed to reporting any updates as they become available during current and future terms, so keep a lookout.
New budget proposal aims to help UW students prepare for Wisconsin workforceThe University of Wisconsin Board of Regents recently approved an operating budget request for $107.5 million of state funds. The Read…
Election year is upon us once again, and this year the entire state Assembly, half of the state Senate, the governorship, the entire U.S. House delegation and one U.S. Senate seat are all up for grabs.
As a swing state, Wisconsin’s gubernatorial race, between Democratic state Education Superintendent Tony Evers and incumbent Gov. Scott Walker, and U.S. Senate race, between incumbent U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and state Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, are receiving considerable national attention.
Baldwin is one of ten Senate Democrats fighting for re-election in a state President Donald Trump won in 2016. In the Republican primary, businessman Kevin Nicholson and Vukmir, the eventual victor, were participants in the most expensive Senate primary in U.S. history — close to $37 million spent when all was said and done. And with the general election in full swing, these unprecedented levels of spending are bound to increase.
Evers to challenge Walker, Vukmir to take on Baldwin in key November racesVoters throughout the state cast their ballot in Tuesday’s partisan primary races, setting up key match-ups for the November general Read…
Since Walker’s first win in 2010, he has since won a recall election in 2012 and reelection in 2014. With Wisconsin Democrats having lost races for the U.S. Senate twice since 2010 and with Trump’s victory in the state in 2016 — the first time a Republican presidential candidate has won in Wisconsin since 1984 — national strategists have pointed to 2018 as a political testing grounds for the state. If Baldwin loses her seat and Walker retains his, many believe any hopes of Wisconsin remaining a “purple” state will be lost.
Madison’s Mayoral election
Madison will bid farewell to longtime mayor Paul Soglin next year, who announced this summer he will not seek reelection next year.
Soglin, who has served as mayor for a grand total of 22 years since his first term in 1973, was a candidate in this year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, but lost decisively to state Education Superintendent Tony Evers this August.
According to the Madison City Clerk’s Office, the race to replace Soglin has already seen seven officials announce their candidacy. The most prominent among them at this stage include Alder Mo Cheeks, former Alder Satya Rhodes-Conway, former Alder Brenda Konkel and Raj Shukla, an environmental activist and executive director of the River Alliance of Wisconsin.
Soglin has faced criticism in the past for his handling of homelessness and economic inequality in Madison, points which many of the mayoral candidates have latched onto as key issues in this race.
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The race will likely see more candidates announce their intention to run as the Feb. 2019 primary approaches. The eventual winner will advance to the April 2019 general election.
So, what should voters look out for in this race? One obvious question is how these candidates plan on differentiating themselves from each other in light of strikingly similar policy platforms. In a city like Madison, which is widely regarded as one of the most progressive in the country, will the tension playing out on the national stage between the old-guard, moderate Democratic Party center and the party’s more progressive wing play out in this race?