Monday, June 24, 2024
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Monday, June 24, 2024

Milwaukee Press Club 'Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism' 2020 & 2021 Award Winners

The UW Board of Regents MUST Rescind the Appalling UW-Milwaukee Encampment Agreement [WRN VOICES]

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I have never been more disappointed with leaders at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where I have been a full-time instructor for almost 20 years. I join the courageous call of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Professor Shale Horowitz, who wrote, “The leadership must go.”

Minimally, the agreement must go.

More university instructors and staff should speak out against UW-Milwaukee leadership’s poorly conceived “agreement” (capitulation) with the group of pro-Palestinian activists who commandeered a section of campus for two weeks. We have an obligation to our Jewish students and faculty to provide them a “space space” on campus, to borrow past liberal terminology.

Jewish leaders have decried this agreement as offensive and dangerous and say the chancellor, Mark Mone, has failed to “adequately respond to anti-Semitic incidents on campus since October 7.” They want the Board of Regents to negate it.

They must.

Uw-milwaukee encampment ends

During two weeks of inaction by university leaders, protesters chalked “f**ck Israel” on the side of a historic campus building used by students and renamed it after a Gaza professor who called October 7 – the rape and murder of Jewish women, children, men, and elderly – both moral and legitimate.

For days on end, the activists (how many were students?) took over a prominent section of campus lawn, hung rules banning people from speaking with police (labeled “pigs”), and built a makeshift fence with signs that contained anti-Jewish slogans like “from the river to the sea.” One sign had Oct. 7 crossed out. Imagine being a Jewish student having to traverse all of this to enter Mitchell Hall for classes. How would you feel?

The encampment appeared all but abandoned by police and university officials. Instead, it was guarded and patrolled by walkie-talkie carrying protester “security” workers who monitored the actions of police and other people who wandered through. I found them intimidating. State law bans camping on university grounds. I’d presume that writing graffiti on Mitchell Hall also violated some law or rule.

The answer was always simple: Take it down. If the activists want to protest, let them do it like everyone else: Waving around signs in Spaights Plaza. You don’t let activists force concessions and negotiations by ignoring laws.

Uw-milwaukee encampment agreement

In fact, even after Dean of Students Adam Jussel admitted in a public communication that some students felt threatened by the encampment, the university allowed it to stand until May 14, after the “agreement.” I found this unconscionable.

The provost later encouraged instructors to be lenient on student due dates because they might be experiencing stress due to the war in the Middle East. It apparently failed to occur to him that the university’s inaction on the encampment might have caused some of it. Furthermore, I can think of many things causing students stress. Biden’s economy, for one.

When university officials finally acted, they entered into the agreement that was so disturbing that three major Jewish organizations called it “among the most offensive and dangerous of any university agreement reached with encampment protesters over the last two weeks.”

Uw-milwaukee encampment agreement

In addition to being a staff member at UWM, I am a taxpayer who helps fund the university.

I do not support university leadership calling for a “ceasefire,” as they did (practical reality: a ceasefire would allow Hamas to rebuild; it disadvantages Israel.)

I do not support university leadership outrageously calling for the release of Israel’s detainees, many of whom are, according to Israel, militants and terrorists. I don’t support their bizarre decision to label those detainees “hostages” or their attempt to draw a false moral equivalency between the terrorist group that raped and murdered women, children and elderly on October 7, and Israel’s defense of herself.

Mark mone
Mark mone uwm photo.

I do not agree with UWM’s implication that Israel is responsible for possible “genocide.” I find it offensive. In fact, UW-Milwaukee based that statement on controversial statistics from the UN, whose Gaza casualty counts come from a ministry of health that is controlled by the terrorist group Hamas.

According to The New York Times, Israel says its prisoners “include avowed senior militants convicted of brutal attacks …Israel says its arrest campaign has picked up senior members of organizations like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.” Is UWM really so naive as to not get that its leaders’ general call for prisoner release would include at least some of them?

The media sanitized the encampment. If you want to know the full flavor of it, read the flyer below, which was prominently posted inside the encampment. It openly glorifies Oct. 7, referring to it as “Al Aqsa Flood,” the term that Hamas gave the terrorist attack.

Uw-milwaukee encampment agreement

I believe university leadership should not take positions on contentious foreign policy debates and should stay focused on teaching our great students, whether Jewish, Palestinian, or any other background. I want ALL of our students to feel safe.

People have a right to think differently than I do. It’s a free country. The university should not pick a side, though, despite the pressure leadership may face from a few loud liberal faculty members. Because we all fund the state’s public university, they are essentially using their taxpayer-funded positions of state authority to argue for controversial foreign policy positions that many of us abhor. That’s wrong.

How do I opt out of the written agreement signed by Mone, Provost Andrew Daire, Vice Chancellor for DEI Chia Vang, and Dean of Students Adam Jussel? How can all others, similarly opposed, opt out? What about Jewish students and faculty who wish to opt out? I do not want this being done in my name.

I commend Universities of Wisconsin President Jay Rothman for saying he is reviewing the process that led to this outcome. He notes that the university as an institution must maintain “viewpoint neutrality on challenging public issues.”

And that is exactly where UWM has failed.

Uw-milwaukee encampment agreement

Professor Horowitz noted that the university’s agreement “openly supports the content and methods of the longstanding Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign to destroy Israel.”

I would note that the agreement was so flawed that, according to Wisconsin Public Radio, it contains falsehoods about the nonprofit Water Council.

Provost andrew daire
Uwm provost andrew daire

I am speaking out now because I believe I have an obligation to students and staff who fear they can not. So far, the voices of professors who supported the unlawful encampment on university grounds have been heard the loudest. I get why; cancel culture is real, and conservatives on campus often feel they need to silence themselves (that’s true too, I’d guess, of non-conservatives who feel like I do on this issue). I feel an obligation to speak up for our Jewish students and faculty.

We have extraordinary, talented, deeply caring students at UW-Milwaukee. It’s why I am so deeply disappointed that university leadership did not have the moral fortitude not to fail them.

Adam jussel
Uwm dean of students adam jussel.

Let me be very clear. People have a right to protest on campus. During my time at UWM, I have seen many controversial protesters, from BLM to anti-abortion crusaders. Pro-Palestinian protesters have this same right. It’s not their speech that is a problem.

I challenge Mone, Daire, Jussel, and Vang to explain exactly how long they would allow an anti-abortion encampment to remain or a pro-MAGA encampment to stand on campus. We all know the answer, and therein lies the problem. They are not operating in a viewpoint-neutral manner, and, as a public university, they must.

We’re supposed to put the disclaimer on these things that my opinions are my own and do not represent the institution where I work. In this context, that seems almost ironic. Stating the obvious: My opinions are my own, and they DO NOT represent the institution where I work.

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Vice President Kamala Harris has a fight on her hands if she wants to inherit the Democratic presidential mantle after President Joe Biden’s time is over, according to a new poll.

The Politico/Morning Consult poll shows that voters have serious doubts about Harris’ electability.

The poll found only 14% of voters said it was “very likely” Harris would win a general election for president if she became the Democratic nominee. Another 20% said it was “somewhat likely.”

The poll is especially noteworthy given Biden's age. The incumbent president is 81 years old and appears increasingly in decline.

A moment of confusion for Biden at a June 6 D-Day ceremony went viral last week, the latest in a string of similar incidents. At the same time, Biden remains competitive with former President Donald Trump, though several polls suggest Trump has a lead over the president.

Biden's incidents have led some to speculate that Democrats could or should try to replace Biden at the Democratic convention in Chicago in August. That would be a highly unusual, though not impossible, move. Removing Biden would naturally raise the question about who could replace him, but for now voters seem to lack confidence that Harris could win.

The poll also looked ahead to 2028: “If President Joe Biden were not in the running for president in 2028, which of the following Democrats, if any, would you want to be the Democratic candidate for president?”

While Harris was top of the list among Democrats, she only received 21% support. California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg both received 10% support each, while 41% said they were unsure or didn't know.

Only 42% of those polled described Harris as trustworthy, and 44% described her as honest, according to the poll.

Notably, only 36% of those surveyed said Biden should replace Harris as his VP on the ticket.

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(The Center Square) – Republicans at the Wisconsin Capitol don’t want Gov. Tony Evers to waste the chance to get a good look at Milwaukee Public Schools’ shortcomings.

Evers recently called for an operational and an instructional audit of MPS.

“I’m proposing today to go two steps further with two important goals: the first, to audit MPS’ programs and operations in their entirety, and the second, to audit the effectiveness of teaching and instruction of our kids in classrooms across the district,” Evers said.

The governor, however, wants to keep the audit within his administration and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said that’d be a mistake.

“I’m glad that Gov. Evers has called for an audit of the Milwaukee Public School System. Gov. Evers and DPI should work with Joint Legislative Audit Committee Co-Chairs [Eric] Wimberger and [Robert] Wittke to discuss authorizing the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau to audit MPS, DPI and any other involved stakeholders,” LeMahieu said. “The LAB is more than capable of handling this important undertaking independently and transparently without the use of outside contractors.”

The worry is an audit controlled by the governor’s office will not fully look into MPS’s shortcomings.

The calls for audits in Milwaukee Public Schools come after the state withheld nearly $17 million last week because of incomplete and late financial reports. One of those reports was due to the Department of Public Instruction in September 2023.

Evers has asked MPS leaders to be a part of any audit process but warned that not everyone will be invited.

“I also have to say – I’m exceedingly disappointed by the politicking and jockeying I’ve seen since this situation came to light by opportunists who’re seizing this moment to serve their own selfish goals instead of worrying about what matters most: our kids,” Evers added.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos took to social media to accuse the governor of being the one who is playing politics.

“And who do you think [Evers] will suggest conducts the audits?” Vos asked. “The same failed DPI bureaucrats who allowed this to happen or his administration who wanted to dismantle the school choice system so all kids were forced into this MPS mess? We need real reforms to the current mentality where MPS has been protecting the bureaucracy and Gov. Evers has been advocating for shoveling hundreds of millions of dollars into this broken system.”

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An industry group says the Biden administration’s new staffing regulations for long-term care facilities are unrealistic.

The mandate requires that all nursing homes that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding provide a total of at least 3.48 hours of nursing care per resident per day. Plus, nursing homes must have a registered nurse onsite at all times.

Research by SeniorLiving.org shows 82%, or nearly 12,000 facilities in the U.S., will need to hire staff or face being shut down.

Spokesperson Corie Wagner said Illinois is home to the fifth highest number of understaffed nursing homes in the country.

“If we were to apply the new policies and new standards to nursing homes in Illinois today, 84% of facilities would need more staff, and that is really significant,” said Wagner.

The mandate will be phased in over three years, with rural communities having up to five years.

Nursing home operators strongly objected to the minimum staffing proposal in September, saying they already struggle to fill open positions.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in September announced a $75 million campaign to increase the number of nurses in nursing homes.

Nearly 1.2 million residents live in Medicare- and Medicaid-certified, long-term care facilities, but Wagner said that number is expected to increase.

“It’s called the Silver Tsunami, so more Americans are aged 65 or older than ever,” said Wagner. “It's one of the largest segments of our population but the infrastructure we have is not keeping up with our population shift.”

A resolution aimed at overturning Biden’s nursing home staffing mandate has a legitimate chance to pass the U.S. Senate.

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