Demand Emergency Housing Action for Vulnerable UW Students

Demand Emergency Housing Action for Vulnerable UW Students

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F.H. King: Students for Sustainable Agriculture started this petition to UW-Madison Chancellor Blank and

During the week of January 28th - February 1st, 2019, temperatures dropped to dangerous, historic lows in Madison. News outlets across the country reported accounts of people freezing to death, including students. These hazardous temperatures created high risk situations for students attending school.

We are grateful that the University chose to cancel classes on Wednesday, January 30th. However, we were shocked by the lack of action from University Administration or University Housing and Dining to provide University resources to students in need of emergency housing, food access, accessibility, and transportation during this crisis.

As a community, we are aware of the many students struggling with food and housing instability on our campus and campuses across the country. In conditions like the severe cold of January 28–February 1, 2019, the physical safety of these students is directly threatened by the University’s lack of action. Despite being aware of these growing student challenges years in advance of this semester’s extreme weather, no action has been taken by the institution to comprehensively address them.

F.H. King: Students for Sustainable Agriculture, as well as other organizations and individuals in the UW community, recognize this weather event as a result of climate change. This issue directly impacts students struggling with food and housing instability. These students deserve our support. This issue concerns F.H. King because our organization is committed to issues of food security, climate, and sustainability. This issue concerns the entire campus community because ensuring the safety of all students is our collective responsibility.

We, the undersigned, find the University’s response to these conditions to be inadequate and unsustainable.

We, the undersigned, call upon UW Administration and UW Housing and Dining to take the following equitable actions toward planning infrastructure for emergency weather situations and protecting its community members, especially food- and housing-insecure students for whom severe weather conditions will impose immediate danger.

We note that this list is not exhaustive and serves to reiterate some of the proposals introduced, researched, and advocated for over the past five years by impacted students, researchers, and allies.

Emergency Housing
1. Reallocate resources for emergency housing. Over the past five years, University Housing and Dining administrators have been informed of the need for emergency housing and affordable student housing by impacted students and researchers, but have not instituted emergency housing programs, citing a general lack of enough student housing to meet demand.
2. Create an accessible application process for emergency housing. Application and vetting processes as well as wrap-around support services have been researched by impacted students and allies, but UW has not yet assisted with this project.

Shared Governance
3. Create a student-led committee to discuss issues of housing access in Madison, implementing the Chapter 6 Shared Governance Committee proposed by Brooke Evans in 2015 and drafted with Madison Laning in 2016 after an ad hoc task force was established to address these issues. The committee proposal was created to account for socioeconomic diversity across the campus community by directly addressing aspects of campus life like basic needs, quality of life, and socioeconomic discrimination. The proposal was presented to the University Staff Executive Committee, Director of University Housing and Dining Jeff Novak, former Dean of Students Lori Berquam, and Chancellor Rebecca Blank.

Facilities and Infrastructure
4. Ensure that dining halls will remain open and that food be accessible during extreme weather events, clearly demonstrating that provisions by University Housing and Dining will be available during breaks in the academic year including class cancellations due to extreme weather conditions. Division facilities are lifelines for food access.

5. Ensure adequate support for students required to work during extreme weather events—this support is best designed in consultation with student workers, including groups like Student Labor Action Committee (SLAC), Teaching Assistants Association (TAA), Associated Students of Madison (ASM), and others.

6. Improve infrastructure for plowing and clearing sidewalks for disabled student access. The University did not appropriately clear sidewalks, crosswalks, and university grounds for campus community members, endangering the well-being of disabled students and violating their right to an accessible educational experience.
7. Better advertise the McBurney Center’s Winter Weather Resources, a program which assists students with snow removal and transportation.

We demand that UW Administration authentically engage with students about issues that threaten their well-being and capacity to participate academically. We, the undersigned, believe that UW values the safety of all of its students and request that its administration respond to this petition with a public statement describing intended next steps in building an infrastructure that ensures the safety of all Badgers. We, the undersigned, formally acknowledge that the University has failed to provide such a statement for several years.

We, the undersigned, insist that such a statement be issued now.

Petition text revised for accuracy and clarity on 28 March 2019. The original text may be viewed here.

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