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UW-Madison students protest university’s coronavirus response


MADISON(WKOW) -- Students at UW-Madison, angry at the administration, made a symbolic gesture of the impact the restart to the school year has had: gravestones set in front of the dining hall that students in quarantine have to use.

"We're all in this together and we're all being affected, so it's kind of a way for people to get their grievances out about the university," Tarah Stanger, one of the organizers, said.

As of Friday, more than 1,800 students had tested positive, according to the UW COVID Dashboard, just over a week after the school year started under the Smart Restart Plan.

The rally Saturday in front of the Gordon Dining Hall was organized by the BIPOC Coalition urging for a new plan.

"It shows that the university, when it comes down to them talking about how they care about their students in any shape or form, it's a lie because at this point they're just looking at us as tuition statements rather than as individual people and that's unacceptable," Stanger said.

While they're protesting the university's response to the coronavirus they say that it may seem odd to be gathering people together, everyone was required to wear masks and social distancing.

They also said they felt they had to do it.

"They put down their decision and we have to either sit down and accept it or we have to put ourselves at risk again in order to fight," Megan S, another organizer, said.

The rally also had a racial equity component with 10 demands for the university that pushed for a more inclusive environment.

The one demand for a better coronavirus response, in part, calls for all-online classes until there are zero new cases in Dane County for two weeks.

They said it's just a starting point.

"We want them to implement our demands, the Moral Restart, just the bare minimum of things that they can do to make the university a better place for BIPOC students," Juliana Bennett, another organizer, said.

Organizers say they've already spoken with Chancellor Rebecca Blank about their demands and they hope to continue their discussions in the coming days.

In the university's daily coronavirus update Saturday, officials urged students to keep social distancing, mask usage and avoid gatherings.