Statement of Chancellor Rebecca Blank

April 15, 2016

Yesterday, a University of Wisconsin Police Department officer entered a classroom in the Humanities Building and asked a student to step into the hallway. The student was subsequently arrested on 11 counts of vandalism to university buildings and a charge of disorderly conduct.

Classrooms should be welcoming spaces dedicated to learning and instruction. There are practices in place at UWPD regarding when it is appropriate to enter a classroom to conduct police business. Unfortunately, in this instance these practices were not followed, and I understand why faculty, staff and students are upset.  I was upset too when I learned about this incident.

We will be working with the UWPD on an immediate review of these practices to ensure that classrooms are preserved as a productive space for learning and educational inquiry.  But I do not want this incident to stain the reputation of the UWPD, which has worked effectively on this campus for many years. And it must also be acknowledged that the student’s alleged actions involved criminal activity.

Some questions have been raised about what student disciplinary sanctions the student may face. As of the moment these are criminal charges against the student. Typically in a case like this the police would refer information to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards, which is responsible for administering the student conduct process. That department investigates the incident and then presents a recommended sanction, if any, to the student. The student can accept the recommendation or choose to have their case heard by a panel, which consists of faculty, staff and a student, or a sole hearing officer.  At the conclusion of that process a student may have the recourse to appeal to the chancellor depending on the sanctions imposed. More information can be found at https://www.students.wisc.edu/doso/non-academic-misconduct/.

I know there is a lot of frustration on campus about the climate for students of color. I share that frustration.  The string of incidents last fall and this spring have highlighted that we have a long way to go to be the community we need to be. We are a university made up of some wonderfully intelligent, caring individuals and working together we can do better.