October 13, 2015

Lawmakers look to lift concealed carry restrictions on Wisconsin campuses

UW-Madison campus (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

UW-Madison campus (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Concealed carry permit holders would be able to have their weapons with them on public college and university campuses in Wisconsin, under a bill being proposed by Republican lawmakers.

Under current law, concealed weapons can be carried in university common areas by individuals with the proper license. However, each campus can make the decision to ban them from classrooms, university facilities, and dorms. The legislation, co-sponsored by Republican state Rep. Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum) and Rep. Devin LeMahieu (R-Ootsburg) would lift restrictions on those locations.

The introduction of the proposal comes just weeks after a deadly mass shooting on an Oregon college campus, where a gunman killed nine people. However, Kremer said it’s not a direct response to the incident. The Kewaskum Republican said he’s been working on the legislation for months, due to concerns about a general rise in violent crime on and around campuses. “What we’re looking at here is some real prevention for violent crime around campuses, while at the same time looking at personal protection for some of these students who have a desire to protect themselves,” he said. “I don’t think we should be treating our college students as lesser citizens – not allowing them to carry like the rest of the law-abiding public.”

University of Wisconsin System officials were less than enthusiastic about the proposal. In a joint release, System President Ray Cross and chancellors said they have “significant concerns and questions with this proposal and cannot currently support it.”

The UW-Madison Police Department urged lawmakers not to consider changing current law. The agency noted in a statement that “the evidence does not support the idea that our campus would be safer if concealed firearms are allowed in our buildings. In states that allow concealed carry, these mass shooting tragedies have still occurred.”

The agency went on to add its concern that “allowing concealed weapons inside a building like Camp Randall Stadium, filled with 80,000 people, creates a major security issue. The training required to obtain a concealed carry permit is minimal.”

Asked about the bill during a stop in Madison Tuesday, Governor Scott Walker largely deflected questions about whether or not he would sign the bill if it clears the Legislature. “Certainly we’ll look at the legislation,” Walker said, but noted that “to me, the real threat are not law-abiding citizens…it’s people who are possessing firearms illegally and people who have fallen through the cracks when it comes to social services.”

The proposal is currently being circulated for co-sponsors at the Capitol.

Affiliate WHBY contributed to this report.

Regents okay lifting UW Madison out-of-state enrollment cap

UW-Madison photo

UW-Madison photo

The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System has approved a plan to lift UW-Madison’s cap on out-of-state students. UW System President Ray Cross told the Regents on Friday that the state’s flagship university faces a demographic reality – a declining pool of Wisconsin high school graduates to choose from.

“The number high school graduates, which peaked at about 71,000 in 2009, is now down to almost 64,000,” Cross said. “We’re requesting a four year waiver on the out-of-state cap.” The waiver would kick in for the fall of 2016. Cross and UW Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank pledged to enroll at least 3,600 in-state students in each UW Madison freshman class. This year there are 3,617.

Cross noted that UW Madison competes with other top-flight universities, in attracting qualified high school graduates. “We are losing too many really good, talented students to other states . . . because they are being recruited to go elsewhere,” Cross said. “We can’t afford to lose that talent.”

“In the face of declining high school numbers, we can’t just be doing business as usual,” Blank said. With the state also facing a declining working-age population, Blank said they’ll also focus on keeping UW grads in Wisconsin. “If our first commitment is to Wisconsin students, our second commitment a partnership with Wisconsin businesses to try to attract more of the students who graduate from our institution to stay in Wisconsin.”

“If the number of Wisconsin residents is staying the same, arguing that this proposal will help us attract more talented Wisconsin residents is not sufficient,” said a statement Madison Laning, Chair of Associated Students of Madison. “It is clear that this proposal was put together by a small group of people, who were rushed, in order to fill short term budget holes in our university.”

GOP bill would require gender restrictions for school restrooms

Two Republican state lawmakers say a bill to keep transgender students out of public school restrooms and changing rooms would reinforce “societal norms.”

Representative Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum) and Senator Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) are seeking co-sponsors for a bill that would require public schools to label restrooms and locker rooms as “male” and “female,” in accordance with the chromosones they were born with. Transgender students could still use one-stall restrooms, but their parents would have to ask for it in writing.

Kremer said he drafted the bill after a transgender student began using the boys’ room at Kewaskum High School. Others objected, and the student was eventually allowed to use a faculty restroom.

Governor Scott Walker was asked about the bill Thursday at Stoughton High School. “I think it’s important to have some clarity about that, and I know school districts across the state have just begun to deal with that,” Walker said.

Megin McDonell of Fair Wisconsin said the proposal would undo a lot of progress that’s been made in schools. “This bill would threaten the kind of advances that school boards all across Wisconsin and all across the country have been doing, that are very thoughtful and comprehensive, and protect all students,”

McDonell said. Brian Juchems of the advocacy group “G-Safe” said the bill could open some transgender students to harassment or assaults. More than 60 Wisconsin school districts have anti-discrimination policies in support of transgender students.

“I think, in respect to all the other students, there has to be some clarity,” Walker said.

UW graduate William Campbell awarded Nobel Prize

nobelprize2015-medA graduate of the University of Wisconsin is one of three scientists who’ve been awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine. William Campbell and Satoshi Omura of Japan were honored for discovering the drug Avermectin. Two derivatives of that drug helped reduce the presence of diseases caused by parasitic worms, mostly in Asia and Africa. The other Nobel Prize winner is Tu Youyou, China’s first medicine laureate. He created a drug that sharply dropped mortality rates for malaria.

The 85-year-old Campbell earned a doctorate degree from UW Madison in 1957. He worked for 33 years at Merck Pharmaceuticals, and is a research fellow-emeritus at Drew University in New Jersey. One of the diseases his drug helped reduce is river blindness, 90-percent of which is inflicted in Africa. The other disease causes swelling in limbs and genitals that affect 120-million people, primarily in Africa and Asia.

UW-Madison looks to drop limits on out-of-state students

UW-Madison campus (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

UW-Madison campus (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Officials at the University of Wisconsin Madison want to temporarily drop a limit on admitting out-of-state students.

The plan calls for a four year suspension of a policy which limits out-of-state enrollments to 27.5 percent. It’s aimed at attracting more young people to live in Wisconsin and potentially stay here after graduation, while also helping to use the higher tuition rates those students pay to make up for state budget cuts.

Critics have described the move as a “cash grab” that will not benefit Wisconsin natives, but campus officials said it will not affect the school’s mandate to reserve 3,500 spots a year for in-state freshmen.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank noted that changes in the state’s demographics are making it harder for businesses to find workers, due to a drop in the number of students graduating high school. While applications to attend the flagship campus have almost doubled in the past decade, the number of state residents seeking admission has actually been on the decline. Blank contends the waiver will allow the UW to “actively recruit top students from around Wisconsin and beyond so that those students are more likely to seek employment in our state when they graduate.”

Figures released by the UW indicate that, among Wisconsin residents who graduate from the UW-Madison, 72 percent stay in the state following graduation. Among non-resident students, 15 percent stay in Wisconsin in the first year after they graduate.

The request will be presented to the UW System Board of Regents, when it meets next week.