Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


The Badger Herald Editorial Board: Fall 2023 issues to watch

The Badger Herald Editorial Board recommends six stories to follow this fall
The Badger Herald archival photo. June 2023. Photo by Cat Carroll.

The Badger Herald Editorial Board considers these issues key topics to watch this fall.

Metro service changes

The issue: In order to improve public transportation efficiency, a major Metro service redesign has been underway. Changes as part of the project include implementing a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, updating routes and improving infrastructure. This past June, a variety of schedule changes were implemented based on passenger and driver feedback, according to the City of Madison. Construction sites for the new Bus Rapid Transit system have also been active over the past year, including on University Avenue, East Washington Avenue and Mineral Point Road.


What to watch: As students return to campus, many will be met with an unfamiliar bus system which promises shorter wait times, but also brings a new lettered (instead of numbered) system and longer walk times, which have been frustrating to some riders, according to Channel 3000. As the city pushes forward with Metro redesign measures, some riders also worry the implementation of East-West BRT in 2024 may bring inequity to riders on the north and south parts of Madison. Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway touts the East-West BRT as a “game-changer,” but early controversies over other Metro system changes raise questions about who will see benefits from the project.

Turnover on State Street

The issue: Many State Street restaurants and storefronts are struggling to return to pre-pandemic levels of success, with businesses that have been operating for decades like Nick’s Restaurant facing an uncertain future. Chains and luxury apartment buildings are primarily replacing these local businesses. Recently, a Target and Auntie Anne’s opened on State Street, with a Sweetgreen opening in a few months. Luxury apartment building Oliv is being constructed where Chasers bar and Community Pharmacy used to be

What to watch: These chains may be conveniently located for students and residents to frequent, but may remove the character of the area. The housing crisis greatly plays into this issue, as there just isn’t enough space in Madison for the influx of students each year, resulting in new apartment complexes popping up constantly. Expect to see this turnover of local businesses to chains and apartments become more common across other areas of Madison too, like Vintage Bar and Grill, whose property is likely to be sold to a luxury apartment developer. As these classic locations face closures, look for student and resident backlash against chains and apartment complexes.

Madison housing crisis

The issue: As the student population at the University of Wisconsin and the city of Madison continues to grow, so does the housing crisis. The increase of luxury apartments such as The James and The Hub only add to the challenge of finding affordable housing downtown. The Madison City Council recently approved another housing development from developer Core Spaces, which will come to Johnson and Bassett by 2026. The development will contain no low-income housing, a measure that received criticism from some alders. 

What to watch: Luxury housing developers are likely to continue staking out the downtown Madison area as a viable housing development zone. UW’s response to the housing crisis was to admit a slightly smaller freshmen class in 2023 with the goal of reducing demand for off-campus housing in the future. Renters should consider what kinds of amenities they really need while living close to a campus that offers things like gym facilities, as these add-ons often drive up housing costs. With some luxury apartments reserving spaces for low-income renters and with prevalent attitudes that building more units will eventually relieve pressure of housing demand, students should continue to monitor housing affordability.

Future of Wisconsin election administration

The issue: As we head into what is expected to be a tumultuous 2024 election cycle, the future of Wisconsin’s top election administration official remains uncertain. Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe’s term expired June 30, but the WEC deadlocked over whether to reelect her for a second term. Democratic WEC commissioners abstained from voting to renominate Wolfe because they feared Republicans in the state Senate would vote to remove her if the nomination came before the entire chamber. Heading the agency since 2018, Wolfe has become a consistent target of right-wing attacks, many of them based on President Donald Trump and his supporters’ false claims of election fraud, both in the state of Wisconsin and nationally. 

What to watch: Removing Wolfe from office would be a huge blow to Wisconsin, which will likely be a crucial battleground state in the presidential race. The margin between Trump and Biden in Wisconsin in 2020 was narrow and we are likely to see the same in 2024 if Trump wins the nomination. A close race coupled with politics in the appointment of an elections administrator could allow claims of fraud to gain momentum and disrupt the results of the election. Even if Wolfe remains in office through the election cycle, false and misleading allegations about the commission’s decisions regarding election results in 2020 will continue to haunt the state.  

UW funding, infrastructure woes

The story: In June, Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin voted to approve a $32 million budget cut to the UW System in an effort to lead university officials away from DEI spending, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Those lawmakers said the roughly $32 million spent on DEI programming should be used for workforce development initiatives. But newly appointed UW Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin pushed back on the cut and lawmakers’ workforce claims, mentioning the lawmakers’ choice to not fund a new campus engineering building that could have contributed to job growth.

What to watch: Politicized funding woes for the UW System are especially relevant as the university continues to face scrutiny for various infrastructure shortcomings in recent years. Despite the university adding new million-dollar facilities like the Nicholas Recreation Center or Bakke Recreation & Wellbeing center, a large concrete slab fell off of the Van Hise building in 2021 outside the front entrance and most recently a temporary, overcrowded pier in front of the Memorial Union Terrace collapsed, sending 60 to 80 people into the water and injuring some. With funding under pressure, it will be important to monitor the public scrutiny of UW’s facilities and facility management as students pack dorms, dining halls and other campus buildings through December.

Mnookin’s sophomore year

The story: After a year of UW, Chancellor Mnookin is beginning to settle into her new role on campus. Under her watch, last year’s incoming class was the most ethnically diverse class in UW’s history to date — the proportion and number of underrepresented students of color in the Class of 2026 are both all-time highs. On the policy front, one of Mnookin’s top priorities remains promoting freedom of speech on campus. In an interview with Madison Magazine, Mnooking described UW as a place where ideas should be explored — even those that may stir discomfort.

What to watch: UW System’s controversial free speech survey last year showed students with conservative viewpoints felt reluctant to express their opinions in fear of unwelcoming reactions from other students. Given First Amendment law, which protects even hateful speech, UW cannot legally prevent controversial speakers from visiting campus. Within the reality of the law, the chancellor is likely to continue to encourage students to engage in conversations about uncomfortable topics.

The Badger Herald Editorial Board serves to represent the voice of the editorial department, distinct from the newsroom and does not necessarily reflect the views of each staff member.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *