Faculty and Staff Statement of Support for ASM and UW-Madison BIPOC Coalition

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Release Date: Thursday, October 15, 2020
 
We, the Equity & Diversity Committee of UFAS (United Faculty and Academic Staff, AFT Local #223), are expressing our support for members of ASM and the UW-Madison BIPOC Coalition in their efforts to advocate for students who have been historically excluded from this campus and in their actions toward creating a campus that is safe for all and police-free. As faculty and academic staff members, we share the common interest with ASM and the BIPOC Coalition in working and studying on a campus that is safe and inclusive for everyone. 
 
At the ASM meeting on September 29, 2020, the student council passed a vote of no confidence in UWPD. We stand in solidarity with this vote. After our own listening session with UWPD, where we discussed their tactics for keeping the campus and nearby community safe, we find no confidence in their operations and with how they interact with students. 
 
Beyond inflicting physical wounds on students with their use of chemical and “non-lethal” weapons, their online behavior this week toward students was reprehensible, disgusting, and condescending, and as fellow staff members, we find it deeply unprofessional. On Monday, October 12, at 11:42 a.m., the official UWPD Twitter account replied to a tweet sent by ASM Chair Matthew Mitnick from his personal Twitter account where Mitnick expressed support for defunding and abolishing UWPD. This was UWPD’s reply:
 

Tweet from @UWMadisonPolice to @matthewmitnick_, @UWBIPOCCo, @TAA_Madison: “In our first two meetings with ASM leaders, @matthewmitnick_ told us more than once that it was not ASM’s aim to defund or abolish UWPD. This certainly goes against Matthew’s own stated position. ::Emoji with a thinking face:: #mixedmessages

 
 
[Image Description: Tweet from @UWMadisonPolice to @matthewmitnick_, @UWBIPOCCo, @TAA_Madison: “In our first two meetings with ASM leaders, @matthewmitnick_ told us more than once that it was not ASM’s aim to defund or abolish UWPD. This certainly goes against Matthew’s own stated position. ::Emoji with a thinking face:: #mixedmessages”. End Image ID]
 
It is disturbing to see the UWPD use their official university Twitter account to target and harass an individual undergraduate student. The power differential between individual undergraduate students, even those in positions of relative visibility and power, and that of the UWPD, is striking. When UWPD uses their official Twitter account to target students, it constitutes a gross abuse of power. This abuse of power by UWPD placed one of our students in danger—exposing them not only to fear of retaliation by the UWPD but also to fear of internet trolls who in recent years have doxxed individuals, exposing their personal information such as home addresses, phone numbers, and familial connections on the internet—placing them in unknown and incalculable danger. 
 
This is counter to the ideals of the university expressed by Chancellor Blank (On Academic Freedom and Free Speech) defending academic freedom and free speech. In her statement, Chancellor Blank was very clear that it is not the university’s place to sanction a faculty member for their personally-held beliefs when posted to a public forum like Twitter, and that it is indeed critical to the “sifting and winnowing” of our institution that such discourse be encouraged. By allowing her police department to use an official communications channel to target a student for their free speech, Chancellor Blank contradicts her own values and the values of this university. We are deeply troubled by a university that officially uses its police force to target a student in this way and the implications this has for academic freedom and free speech for all members of the campus community. 
 
The targeting of an individual student by UWPD also distracts from the issues raised by the UW BIPOC Coalition and TAA in their protest last week and by the vote of no confidence by the ASM. The UWPD has demonstrated an inability to engage the concerns of students and members of the UW community or a disinterest in doing so. Therefore, it is incumbent upon leaders of the university to meet with the BIPOC Coalition and for all members of the UW community to ask ourselves what is the appropriate role of the UWPD, in whose interest do they function, what resources do they acquire, and to what end?  We must ask ourselves, if the UWPD is willing to target the Chair of ASM in such a public way, what other ways are they comfortable targeting students—from classrooms to protests? 
 
What can you do?
1. Sign this statement. While this statement was written by the Equity & Diversity Committee of UFAS, we encourage endorsement by any faculty or staff member of the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Please fill out this form to add your name. 
2. Share this statement with staff and faculty in your networks.
3. Email the UW-Madison Leadership team to express support for ASM and the UW-Madison BIPOC Coalition. You can find an email template here.
4. Share the call for testimonials created by the UW-Madison BIPOC Coalition. The UW-Madison BIPOC Coalition is gathering testimonials of individuals’ negative experiences with the UWPD. As faculty and academic staff, we encourage participation in this survey and we will be paying close attention to its results. 
5. Follow ASM (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and the UW-Madison BIPOC Coalition (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) on social media for updates.
 
If you are interested in organizing with the Equity & Diversity Committee of UFAS, please email our co-chairs.