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Last Student Council Meeting of Semester Yields High Student Turnout; Support for Potentially Displaced Student Groups

Posted: 2022-12-09 10:12:54   Expiration: 2032-12-16 20:12:54

ASM Logo  Associated Students of Madison
  333 East Campus Mall, 4301 Student Activity Center, Madison, WI
  Website:   Phone: 608/265-4ASM   


09 December 2022

Meghan Savaglia, Press Office Director

Last Student Council Meeting of Semester Yields High Student Turnout; Support for Potentially Displaced Student Groups

MADISON, WI — Last night, the ASM Student Council met for their last meeting of the fall semester; with an incredibly high number of students attending to show support for discussion around the displacement of Mecha de UW Madison and the Indigenous Student Center (ISC). 

The meeting opened with a robust Open Forum section, with members and supporters of Mecha and the ISC speaking on the importance of their organizations on the UW-Madison campus. Many spoke on how the Mecha & ISC houses have provided a safe space in the UW-Madison community. “Our safe space wasn’t Camp Randall, or the Kohl Center, we had to find sanctuary in these homes… The same issues that happened almost 12 years ago are happening again,” said 2010 UW-Madison and Mecha alumnus Ismael Cuevas, noting the previous displacement of the Mecha house. “These spaces mean a lot to me,” added Michael Williams, a member of the ISC and Oneida Nation Bear Clan, “there’s a whole other level to this [displacement], which is tribal sovereignty… when you say ‘its Our Shared Future,’ you are making a commitment with a group of individuals and communities that have been disproportionately affected… who have been attacked, and removed, and pulled off their land, and displaced.” 

Marisol Dashnaw, a first year UW student and Mecha member, added their concerns. “In their planning process of more than five years, the university did not include indigenous student groups and paid no regard for the future of our organizations… placing our organizations into the Red Gym is impractical, unrealistic, and stifles us… this contributes to the idea that our identities are monolithic.” 

“Displacement is more than just a word or an action to our people. It is a warning. It has been whispered from generation to generation in fear, and normalized through the decades. Our bodies tense up at the idea of displacement, at the feeling of being displaced and the familiarity of the word. Our predecessors knew this word well. They knew the power that it held, and they knew how much it could hurt… From the time Wunk Sheek has been established to the present day, we have had five homes. Each time we were displaced, we established a new sense of home, of community,” from Kira Adkins, a member of Wunk Sheek and Turtle Clan from the Oneida Nation. 

We, the Associated Students of Madison, want to extend our warm thanks to all students for coming to speak at the December 7th meeting, and our promise to work to meet the needs of students for the rest of our term. 

Following the Open Forum, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway spoke to the audience of both Student Council members and the student body about her work and goals during her term as mayor. She highlighted issues on affordable housing, transit, homelessness, reproductive justice, and more. Mayor Rhodes Conway called housing “the biggest and possibly the most challenging issue facing the city of Madison.” “We are behind about 4000 units in the City of Madison,” the Mayor added, “and we need to add 2000 units a year to keep up with projected population growth.” She noted a future planned meeting with Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin to discuss student-focused affordable housing; an issue that has received much attention over the past year. 

On the topic of violence prevention, Mayor Rhodes-Conway cited the CARES mental health emergency program as a proud success. “We are working hard to shift our approach on violence in our community from a public safety response to a public health response.” The CARES program, which was partially funded by ASM last session, recently published its first annual report, which can be viewed here

Mecha also had the opportunity to present to the Student Council. Following Open Forum support, Mecha shared their frustration with the university due to confusion over the fate of their space, currently housed at 206 Bernard Court. While recently university administration has clarified that there is no decided fate for the demolition of the Mecha and ISC houses, both groups have felt wholly excluded from decisions on planning and demolition. Until recently, it was their belief that both houses  were scheduled to be demolished, along with the Zoe Bayliss Housing Cooperative, at an unknown date in the future. 

“At what point will the university stick to its core values of inclusivity outlined in its strategic plan. At what point will it focus on diversity, inclusion and social justice? At what point will it foster a culture of wellbeing? Mecha not only stands for all of this, but actively creates change in our community,” Mecha leaders presented. “You put our faces on your brochures, you bring us into this university where it's not safe for us to exist, and then you further traumatize us and make us fight for a space of our own.” 

“We may not live at the Mecha house, but this is our home.” 

Following these segments, the Student Council successfully appointed the new Vote Coordinator, Sarah Nehls, as well as Amaya Boman for the Equity & Inclusion Committee Chair. The Student Judiciary, Student Activity Center Governing Board and Student Services Finance Committee budgets were also passed. 

The next Student Council meeting will be held on Wednesday, February 1st at 6:30 p.m. at 333 East Campus Mall on the 4th floor of the Student Activity Center. 


-- Associated Students of Madison: Meghan Savaglia