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UW–Madison prepared for possibility of Capitol disruption

January 14, 2021

Federal law enforcement agencies have recently shared warnings about the possibility of weekend violence or disruption in state capitols across the country ahead of the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration.

At this time, there is no specific threat to campus or the State Capitol, nor is campus changing its operations. UW–Madison is closely monitoring this situation and will address any issues that arise.

The university recognizes that the warnings have created questions and concern, especially as University Housing is beginning move-in and more students are returning to Madison.

UW-Madison and UW–Madison Police Department (UWPD) are coordinating with the Mayor’s Office, the City of Madison Police Department, Dane County Sheriff’s Office, Capitol Police and the Wisconsin National Guard.

“As we start a new semester, we continue our work toward creating a campus community where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, where the right to free expression is protected, but violence is not tolerated,” says Chancellor Rebecca Blank.

“Civility, citizenship and civic discourse are topics university leadership are discussing frequently, and we will be talking about them with students this spring through campus programming and events. We are committed to preparing our students to be leaders in this complex world.”

The Capitol Square and State Street areas have generally been the focus of protest events when they occur. UWPD is aware of the close proximity of these areas to campus, along with off-campus residences and apartments, and it has plans in place to work with other local law enforcement agencies to address any issues.

Every member of our community has the right to free expression and freedom of movement. However, please be aware that conditions can change rapidly. We advise students and employees to monitor this situation and if disruption should occur, avoid the affected area.

There are a number of safety tools available to students, faculty, staff and families:

  • If you need immediate help or you have an emergency, call 911 or UWPD dispatch at (608) 264-2677.
  • Students in need of support are encouraged to contact the Dean of Students office at 608-263-5700, UHS at (608) 265-5600 or Eric Williams of the Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement.
  • Employees with concerns are encouraged to contact your supervisor or the Employee Assistance Office, (608) 263-2987
  • UWPD maintains an emergency alert system called WiscAlerts. The system is designed to provide information about an active emergency situation on campus that requires the community to take immediate action in order to stay safe. Every UW–Madison student is automatically enrolled in WiscAlerts via email and text message. Students do have the ability to add a second cell phone number to their profile for a parent or guardian — they need to visit the WiscAlert portal to make those change. Employees must also enroll in the system.
  • An extension of the WiscAlert system, Off-Campus Alerts will alert our community about significant threats in certain areas off campus – in areas where a large numbers of students live or frequently visit. Students need to sign up to receive these secondary Off-Campus Alerts — they can sign up at the WiscAlert portal:
  • WiscGuardian: A free mobile safety app, WiscGuardian, is available for students to download. The app allows for easy emergency and non-emergency communication and for friends and family to virtually “walk” with students on and off campus.
  • If you have a non-urgent question about safety, email If you need immediate assistance, call UWPD dispatch at (608) 264-2677.