Free Speech vs. Safe Spaces



United Council of UW Students achieved at least half of one of its demands on Friday when System president Raymond Cross publicly apologized for the lack of support concerning underrepresented students and admitted that the system isn’t where it needs to be in regards to diversity and inclusivity.

The statement from Cross came on the same day that United Council organized a protest at the Feb. 5 System Regents meeting in Madison with #Blackout.

Students from UW-Parkside, UW-Madison and UW-Fond du Lac attended the protest.

The group carried out their protest, according to the Wisconsin State Journal, interrupting Regent President Regina Millner.

United Council’s press release states the demands of the UW System president, Raymond Cross, and Board of Regents president, Regina Millner, which ask Cross and Millner to: apologize for their failure to progress on diversity within the UW system, create racial awareness within the system, update plans for diversity change, create a task force to monitor the experiences of minority students in schools, and increase funding to bring mental health professionals — particularly those of color — into the schools.

Recent protests are a reaction to a resolution was passed in December by the Wisconsin System’s Board of Regents that allows for “safe spaces” where students will be allowed to exercise their amendment right of free speech.  

The resolution was initially requested by United Council and a partner group called #Blackout after protests against hate crimes and racism at the University of Missouri culminated last semester, with United Council and #Blackout calling for the Regents to ensure safe spaces on campuses in the System.

United Council and #Blackout, along with other students across the UW System immediately began questioning the helpfulness of this resolution, believing it would allow hate speech on campus.

The United Council of UW Students is, according to their official Facebook page, a statewide student association for the UW System which is focused on working towards a better student experience.

United Council has partnered with the independent UW-BlackOut Movement. According to their #Blackout Newsletter Facebook page, their goals are advocacy for the unheard, underserved and underrepresented, improvement of the social climate for all in our reach, and persistence in the never-ending fight for social justice.

The United Council stated via Facebook that their work with UW-Blackout is no joke, and that there has been a #Blackout of students rights, especially students of color. United Council says they and #Blackout are here to change that.

President of the Black Student Union at UW-Parkside Andre Holland stated that he was speaking to various campus leaders within United Council but wasn’t aware of the events at other UW campuses. He added that the UWP-BSU will stand with them through their tough times.

According to the United Council press release, they will be keeping the pressure on the Board of regents to make sure that all five of the demands are met.

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