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Meet the Pokémon Go of geology: Rockd

Thu, 09/29/2016 - 11:32pm

University of Wisconsin geoscience professor Shanan Peters spends a lot of time looking at rocks.

But finding good-looking rocks can sometimes be a challenge. Peters said the difficulty of finding noteworthy geological sites prompted him to create an app to solve the issue through crowd sourcing.

Rockd, an app he released Sep. 17 in partnership with Patrick McLaughlin, a former geologist for the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey, seeks to crowdsource the task of finding places where people can go to look at pieces of the Earth’s crust.

GrocerKey app makes Madison groceries as simple as a click of a buttonA new Madison-based app now allows customers to grocery shop without ever stepping foot in an aisle. GrocerKey launched Friday, thanks …

“People who know where to go out to see specific things really only appreciate looking at them out in the field, and it’s really hard to figure out where to go sometimes,” Peters said.

Wisconsin offers few places for the avid geologist to locate new rocks. The challenge for Peters, then, was to develop something that made it easier for those wanting to explore geology.

“A lot of the motivation was to facilitate the process of knowing where to go when you go out in the field, making the best use of your time on the fly and figuring out what you’re looking at,” Peters said.

Madison resident creates app aimed at informing votersFor some, staying up to date on political candidates during election season can be a daunting task. Thanks to Madison …

The app allows users to upload their own photos and notes and then compare those to other users’ observations and knowledge of that specific location.

While the app is mainly geared toward professional geologists, Peters said many students in his class have already used it as a tool for their work out in the field. He added that it is also something families can use during vacations to appreciate the places they’re visiting.

“Really anybody who is interested in a passive way or serious way can use the app,” Peters said.

Paying attention, paying for lunch: New app has badgers covered for class participationParticipation points may not be the only loss for texting instead of paying attention in class. A new app called …

For professional geologists, Peters joked there is a bit of a “gaming element,” as colleagues compare some of their findings and share their experiences.

At the moment, the app remains person-focused — where only one user shares their findings on their account. In the future, Peters said they’d ideally like users to have the capacity to join groups.

Phone app keeps drunk driving in checkWith St. Patrick’s Day celebrations occurring, many people will be drinking, and Wisconsin Department of Transportation has brought back an …

For example, the UW Department of Geoscience will have its own group where students and professionals can contribute to the group’s activity, Peters said.

In the future, Peter said they would like to include developer-created official stops — similar to Pokéstops. These locations would offer a more structured viewing experience as opposed to purely looking at what someone else saw.

In the future, Peters hopes to add more features to the app without taking away from its simplicity.

“We hope to keep expanding capacity [for this app] to tell you about the world around you,” Peters said.

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Categories: Local Media

UWPD publishes list of equipment used by department, officers

Thu, 09/29/2016 - 11:30pm

In their continued efforts to foster transparency with the community, the University of Wisconsin Police Department has published a list of all the current equipment the department owns and intends to acquire.

In the past, UWPD would have honored any individual’s request on departmental equipment, UWPD spokesperson Marc Lovicott said. This is the first time, however, that a webpage is available with all of the information.

ASM hopes to prevent UWPD militarizationThe Associated Students of Madison want to make sure the University of Wisconsin Police Department does not follow the national …

“We pride ourselves in transparency, and in letting folks know what we do and how we do it, and I believe this [webpage] is an extension of that,” Lovicott said.

The webpage came as a result of a resolution Associated Students of Madison passed Sept. 7. The resolution had concerns of the physiological ramifications of having a militarized police force on campus, according to a UWPD response.

Lovicott said he understands that the visual of a militarized police department can be a concern for a certain demographic.

In photos: #TheRealUW art exhibition raises awareness of marginalized students’ campus experiencesMore than 600 students, faculty and community members gathered at the Chazen Museum of Art April 22 for the Unhood …

“Everybody has their own way of interpreting things and everyone sees things different,” Lovicott said. “You may be uncomfortable seeing an individual carrying a fireman whether it’s an officer or a citizen. I can understand how looking like a militiarized police department may be intimidating to some.”

Under President Barack Obama’s Executive Order 13688, local law enforcement agencies, such as UWPD, have the ability to acquire, or purchase military weapons through federal funds. At the moment, UWPD does not own any military weapons nor does it intend to purchase or acquire the equipment anytime soon.

If the department were interested in obtaining such type of equipment, however, Lovicott said they will first reach out to the community to gain their input.

“People feel differently on these type of matters and that’s on us to be transparent and explain why we have these things,” Lovicott said. “I think this [list] will give people a better understanding.”

The list will be continually updated as the department gains new equipment. UWPD will seek community input prior to making any purchases or updates.

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Categories: Local Media

MPD announces new initiative to fight opioid epidemic

Thu, 09/29/2016 - 11:25pm

In an effort to curb the growing opioid epidemic in Wisconsin, the Madison Police Department Thursday announced a new initiative aimed at providing treatment for non-violent offenders who suffer from addiction.

MPD, state elected and public health officials held a news conference at the Pyle Center Thursday afternoon to announce a three-year pilot program called the Madison Addiction Recovery Initiative.

Rallying for recovery: Naloxone offers opportunity to fight Wisconsin’s opioid epidemicGathered at the top of the Capitol steps Saturday, a crowd shouted “Recovery is possible!” Joined hand in hand, recovering addicts, …

“Today, we get to report a true win for the community,” MPD Chief Mike Koval said. “This is one happy and gratified police chief who for the first time in years can say ‘I feel like we can truly make a difference.'”

Funded through a $700,000 Smart Policing grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, MARI will provide substance abusers the ability to get treatment rather than become ensnared in the criminal justice system when faced with a potential arrest. The grant money will fund the positions for a program coordinator, counselors and peer mentor coaches, MPD spokesperson Joel DeSpain said.

When officers encounter a heroin overdose or a non-violent crime that is related to addiction, they will now offer the user the opportunity to seek treatment, Lt. Cory Nelson said. The option to seek treatment will not apply to violent crimes.

MPD equips 450 officers with anti-overdose drugReversing a heroin overdose is a race against the clock. In equipping 450 officers with a new method to prevent …

MPD will hold the charges for the offender’s crime up to a year, Nelson said. If they commit another crime during their stay in the program, they will be removed and will face arrest, he added.

MPD and state elected officials praised the effort to focus on treating substance abusers rather than incarcerating them.

“We cannot simply arrest our way out of this epidemic,” Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said.

Alice Vagun/The Badger Herald

Koval added that labeling and stigmatizing an arrest record isn’t going to get addicts the extensive treatment required to allow them to move forward with their lives.

The news conference at the Pyle Center coincided with the
annual Wisconsin Society of Addiction Medicine conference. At last year’s conference, Aleksandra Zgierska, an assistant professor in the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, realized there was a gap that needed to be filled.

For addicts to receive help, whether in the streets or clinics, Zgierska said it was necessary to bring collaborators across a variety of fields to address the problem together.

Use of heroin anti-overdose medication increased 300 percent in last yearStatistics from the Madison Fire Department show there was a 300 percent increase in the number of times an anti-overdose drug was …

“We should not punish [users],” Zgierska said. “We now know addiction is a disease just like any other, like diabetes or hypertension, and we should apply the same standards that are there for other chronic conditions.”

With the help of other UW clinicians and researchers, Zgierksa said she and her team will evaluate the initiative in real-time and provide ongoing research and feedback to improve the program.

Some of the local addiction programs that have partnered with MARI include UW Behavioral Health and Recovery, ARC Community Services and NewStart and Connections Counseling among others.

The program is scheduled to begin in January 2017.

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Categories: Local Media

Parisi prioritizes homelessness, opioid epidemic in 2017 budget

Thu, 09/29/2016 - 11:19pm

With a focus on investing in the county’s future, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced several expansions in social services in his 2017 budget.

Totaling $580 million, the budget, titled “An Investment in our Future,” seeks to expand the restorative justice court program, reduce homelessness and invest in environmental initiatives. These provisions will lead to a tax hike of 2.5 percent.

Dane County’s reserve funds for the current budget are estimated at more than $30 million, which Parisi has built up since he first assumed office, according to a statement.

With a new day resource center on its way, Dane County is continuing its effort in reducing homelessness by bolstering funding for existing initiatives and starting funding for new ones with nearly $2 million.

Day resource centers offer assistance to the homeless in MadisonAs a way to help serve the thousands of homeless people living in Dane County, two day centers will be opening …

Funding for the Eviction Prevention Fund will be doubled, as was done in the previous year.

In a joint project between the city and county, $1 million will be used to acquire and develop a complex with single housing units. An additional $2 million will be provided for the Dane County Affordable Housing Fund to help fulfill the goals of the Housing First initiative.

The 2017 budget will also expand the Housing Hotline by adding two new staff members.

Among the new initiatives, Parisi’s proposal will use $80,000 to fund two full-time housing locators to provide housing for adults and families.

Similar to last year’s budget, Parisi will continue to expand mental health services in the county. Approximately $400,000 will be allocated to creating a fourth Mental Health Crisis Team for the Madison School District.

“The effects of mental illness are far reaching, affecting classrooms, families and workplaces,” Parisi said in the statement. “Dane County is stepping up and increasing our commitment to get help to those in need and address mental health challenges.”

Restorative courts give young adults a second chanceA Dane County pilot program designed to address racial disparities throughout the criminal justice system is underway, and already garnering …

To expand employment opportunities for first-time, non-violent offenders, Parisi announced that he will be expanding eligibility for the community justice restorative court. Under the budget’s proposal, the program can potentially be opened up to other offenders who don’t currently fall in the 17-to-35 year-old range.

As the opioid epidemic continues to grow, Parisi is responding by doubling the District Attorney’s Deferred Prosecution Program. The program defers people facing opiate related charges into treatment rather than prosecuting them.

Rallying for recovery: Naloxone offers opportunity to fight Wisconsin’s opioid epidemicGathered at the top of the Capitol steps Saturday, a crowd shouted “Recovery is possible!” Joined hand in hand, recovering addicts, …

Parisi is also proposing to invest $12 million over the next four years to remove algae-causing phosphorus in streams that pour into county lakes.

The Dane County Board of Supervisors will be reviewing the budget and making amendments to it in the next two months. A final vote date on the budget will be determined.

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Categories: Local Media

UW professor’s research looks to make future more sustainable

Thu, 09/29/2016 - 10:44pm

University of Wisconsin bacteriology professor Tim Donohue was named the UW Foundation Chairman Fetzer-Bascom professor for his research on renewable fuel creating bacteria earlier this month.

Donohue said his research focuses on working with bacteria that is adept in converting renewable nutrients into fuels and chemicals. These bacteria use sunlight and certain types of plant material to create biofuels.

The UWF Chairman Fetzer-Bascom professorship is awarded to professors who have distinguished themselves with their research, teaching and contributions to the university. Donohue said the professorship lasts for five years and provides $10,000 per year to support research. It also adds a $5,000 salary adjustment during the five years.

Donohue, who has been working at UW for 30 years, said he did not even know he was being considered for the professorship. He said he was pleasantly surprised to receive the award.

“It’s been an amazing experience to work at this university and to be able to have these opportunities to do research and train students both in my lab and classroom,” Donohue said.

Donohue said he also supervises the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, which carries out similar research to his own. The Department of Energy has funded GLBRC for 10 years. Now, GLBRC has requested additional funding as well, he said.

The renewable energy these bacteria generate can be used instead of petroleum to fuel different objects, Donohue said. It also puts agricultural waste to use since this is what primarily serves as the plant matter that the bacteria break down.

Donohue said he hopes his research will be applied to power objects like vehicles and have implications worldwide. He said a large part of his research is to keep the Wisconsin Idea alive.

“This really is an opportunity for us to give renewable energy as part of the Wisconsin Idea portfolio of things we do to make a difference in people’s lives,” Donohue said.

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Categories: Local Media

UW’s Small Business Development Center lends a hand to small business owners looking for growth

Thu, 09/29/2016 - 8:00am

The University of Wisconsin School of Business mentors business owners and entrepreneurs to help local businesses grow and improve.

Small Business Development Center has been open since 1979 and helps current and aspiring business owners by giving them information through classes and one-on-one consultation.

Michelle Somes-Booher, business consultant and director of the center, said the main purpose is to provide local assistance.

It isn’t easy to define a small business, Somes-Booher said. According to the Small Business Administration, there are government guidelines to define a small business by industry, Somes-Booher said.

Because the definition is industry-specific, a manufacturer with 100 employees can still be considered a small business based on that industry, Somes-Booher said.

The center’s average consulting client has between six to 10 employees and is under $1 million in revenue, Somes-Booher said.

“We saw 361 businesses last year and we helped start 32 businesses,” Somes-Booher said. “Our clients have gained over $9.6 million in capital.”

There are three basic services the center provides.

The center hosts the Wisconsin Business Answer Line, a free service for anyone in the state, which accept calls and emails about quick business questions, Somes-Booher said.

“For example, we can help if someone ever wants to start a food cart and they don’t know about the regulations,” Somes-Booher said.

The center also provides free not-for-credit courses for current and aspiring business owners. Courses range from financial management to digital media to leadership development, Somes-Booher said.

These courses are set up similarly to seminars and workshops. Classes may run for half-a-day, a full day or a series of days. The cheapest class is $35 and most expensive can cost up to $300, Somes-Booher said.

These options allow small businesses to avoid spending too much money or time on courses when it could be put directly into their business instead.

Somes-Booher said the heart of the center, however, is their free one-on-one consultations for small businesses.

“We’ll work with people to help them improve efficiency, grow a business, start a business, and we don’t charge for the service because we pay for it through our federal tax dollars,” Somes-Booher said.

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Categories: Local Media

Veteran Law Center outfits services to extend reach to more veterans in need

Thu, 09/29/2016 - 8:00am

Every fourth Thursday of the month, the front corner room of Porchlight Inc. turns into a makeshift law office.

A team of young law students and experienced lawyers volunteer their time and legal expertise to offer advice on finances, health, housing, citizenship and more to low-income veterans and their families.

The University of Wisconsin Law School Pro Bono Program started the Veterans Law Center in 2012 in collaboration with the Dane County Bar Association, the Dane County Veterans Service Office and Porchlight, Inc, the program’s director Laura Smythe said.

UW Law School launches Veteran Law CenterThe University of Wisconsin Law School will launch its new Veterans Law Center this Thursday, aimed at providing legal assistance …

Smythe said the Veterans Law Center has helped a growing number of veterans at their two downtown Madison locations, Porchlight Inc. and the City County Building, since its inception.

But to meet the increasing amount of veterans in need and veterans who cannot make it to the center’s two locations, the center recently added an office-on-wheels and a location at the VA Hospital.

Smythe said there are several counties in the state that don’t offer federal programming or a community law firm that’s dedicated to people with limited financial means.

“We are targeting those counties that don’t have access to something like that and have a larger population of veterans,” Smythe said.

Meeting the needs of veterans

The center outfits a borrowed university vehicle to serve as a traveling law office. Since its first trip in August, the mobile office has traveled to places outside of Madison to meet with veterans in need.

Smythe hopes one day the center will have its own vehicle that can be outfitted as a permanent law office on wheels. To staff their clinics, the center tries to use local attorneys for their sessions, she said.

Every fourth Thursday of the month, Porchlight holds a two hour session for veterans to walk in and meet with their volunteer attorneys.
Joey Reuteman/The Badger Herald

Local attorneys are familiar with local resources and places veterans can use if they need to, Smythe said.

Center-offered sessions will typically receive anywhere from two to eight visiting veterans in a two-hour time span, Smythe said. Usually a session will include two volunteer attorneys and two volunteer UW law students that veterans can walk in and meet with for any length of time.

“If they walk in and they need an hour of our time, they get an hour of our time … that means on occasion we do turn people away and then we make sure to let them know when our next clinic is and we prioritize them,” Smythe said.

Law in action

The center offers university law students a hands-on experience while they volunteer with an attorney and work with clients.

Working with attorneys allows students to see how a law plays out in reality, as opposed to just reading a law and understanding what it says, Smythe said.

City County Building holds session hours every second Thursday of the month. Image courtesy of Flickr user cityofmadison

Rebecca Anderson is a first year law student at UW and volunteers at the Veterans Law Center.

Anderson volunteered with the hope of being able to help veterans in need of legal services. In addition, she said she hoped working alongside an attorney would help her understand the client-attorney relationship.

“It has helped me learn a lot on how you interact with clients,” Anderson said. “I’m really hoping that through this opportunity I can expand my own skills in working with clients and networking with attorneys.”

Being able to handle real issues with clients is important, volunteer attorney Shawn Lovell said. The Veterans Law Center offers students an opportunity to deal with the unknown because veterans walk in with a variety of issues they have questions about.

An attorney’s job is to be able to research issues clients have and give them a response or advice on how to handle it, Lovell said. The center is an excellent way to enable students to learn how to do that.

Driving ahead

Though the new mobile center and VA hospital session hours will cater to more groups of veterans, the center hopes to continue expanding the program to reach more veterans in need.

It’s important that the center is able to provide availability for veterans to access the center’s services at different times and locations, Lovell said. The mobile center has started to reach out to more veterans in need and let them know these services are available.

The center hopes to hold more conversations with those in the local community who would be willing to help, Smythe said.

“We are proud of what we are doing and we’re pleased that people are interested,” Smythe said. “We think we can do it better with some help.”

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Categories: Local Media

This is why the Red Gym will no longer be the Amazon pick-up location

Thu, 09/29/2016 - 7:00am

University of Wisconsin Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Laurent Heller announced the Red Gym, an iconic and historic landmark on campus, is no longer on the table as the Amazon pickup point Wednesday.

This decision came after students and faculty claimed the Red Gym was already overcrowded and longstanding campus procedures for decision-making were violated.

After student organizations raised concerns about the potential disruptions that could come from the Amazon activity, UW decided to relocate the pickup point.

ASM passes legislation calling for new location for Amazon@UWMadisonThe Associated Students of Madison passed legislation Wednesday evening calling for Chancellor Rebecca Blank and Laurent Heller, Vice Chancellor for …

The pickup point would have occupied 2,200 square feet of space just inside the front door of the Red Gym. This location could have created long lines that blocked the entrance and shared meeting spaces.

“We take these concerns seriously and have agreed to work with our partners at Amazon to find a different location,” Heller said in a statement. “We continue to strongly believe this project will be a benefit to the university and campus community.”

Associated Students of Madison’s Shared Governance   Committee Chair Omer Arain said UW’s decision bypassed shared governance procedures. Faculty, staff and students weren’t consulted throughout the entire decision-making process.

“It is already very tight and there isn’t a lot of space,” Arain said. “So we didn’t feel like it was appropriate to put Amazon there because the services provided in the Red Gym are very important and students need to feel safe.”

Arain said the most important thing is not where the new Amazon pickup point will be, but making sure building occupant feedback is taken into consideration.

Mary Rouse, assistant vice chancellor for Academic Affairs & Dean of Students Emerita, said in a statement if the longstanding campus procedures for decision-making had been honored, the University Committee and the Academic Staff Executive Committee would have had a better result.

The Red Gym is home to the LGBT Campus Center, International Student Services, the Center for Leadership and Involvement and the Multicultural Student Center.

The Red Gym was built in 1893 and designated as a National Historical Landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior in 1993.

The building became a major center of activity between 1988 to 1998 through Rouse’s efforts. Rouse contributed to the Red Gym’s historic preservation when many felt it should be torn down due to wear and tear over the past century.

During its historic preservation, Rouse solved the “well-documented” space shortages for a number of student programs and services by placing them all together under one roof.

The programs and services housed in the Red Gym were intentionally selected, Rouse said.

“Shared spaces were designed so that students would have many opportunities to meet and get to know each other as friends and peers and engage fully in student life inside and outside their classrooms,” Rouse said.

By making the Red Gym the Amazon pickup point, many building occupants felt that the true meaning behind the Red Gym’s shared space would not be honored.

UW will work with Amazon to find alternative locations that have less impact on building occupants and programs, Heller said.

The five-year contract with Amazon will benefit UW by earning the university a guaranteed $100,000 commission annually for five years or more, depending on sales. The Board of Regents expects the actual commission to be higher.

Getting Amazon packages around campus to get a whole lot easierThe University of Wisconsin is on track to strike a deal with Amazon creating a central location on campus for …

“The $100,000 per year rent may seem very tempting to the money starved campus administrators,” Rouse said. “But it is a paltry sum if you factor in the harm to students and student services and the ill it is likely to generate among many UW-Madison supporters and potential donors, in particular local merchants who compete with Amazon.”

Correction: The original version of this story misattributed information to Heller. This version has been corrected to appropriately reflect that it came from Rouse. 

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Categories: Local Media

Trump pushes tough-on-crime policies at Waukesha rally

Thu, 09/29/2016 - 3:22am

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump hammered home his intent to achieve peace through strength and to restore law and order in the United States at a Waukesha rally Wednesday.

Over a thousand supporters crowded inside the Waukesha County Expo Center to hear Trump speak, while hundreds of protesters stationed outside the center. Trump touted his tough-on-crime agenda in the deeply-conservative Milwaukee suburb and said tough policies wouldn’t just improve lives for whites in suburbs, but for minorities in high-crime inner cities as well.

“The people in Milwaukee? They’re going to love Donald Trump,” Trump said. “We’re going to have safety. We’re going to save thousands of lives.”

Amos Mayberry/The Badger Herald

Paul Farrow, Waukesha County executive and host of the rally, asserted Waukesha is the reddest county in the state of Wisconsin, and among the reddest in the country. With the crowd’s help, he said, Waukesha could help turn all of Wisconsin red for the November election.

To whip up support in Waukesha, Trump’s campaign had a strong lineup of conservative speakers, including a surprise appearance from former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani said Hillary Clinton and other Democrats have been “mocking people into poverty” by fostering dependence on government.

“[Minorities are] locked into a system of dependency,” Giuliani said. “Donald Trump wants to give them the ladder to success, he wants to put down the ladder to success, and you know what the ladder to success is? It’s a safe community, a good education and a good job.”

Amos Mayberry/The Badger Herald

Citing recent statistics about crime increases across the country, Trump said the government’s focus should be on supporting the police. He directly cast a line to those living in America’s inner cities and struggling with violence.

“To the inner cities in America, what the hell do you have to lose?” Trump asked. “I will fix it, vote for me.”

But Trump and other conservatives at the rally didn’t just talk peace at home. Former Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Bob Kasten, an outspoken Ronald Reagan-era conservative, said Trump would financially support the military and bring about peace abroad.

David Clarke, the widely-popular conservative Milwaukee County sheriff, compared the presidential nominee to a modern-day Reagan. He said Trump won’t be afraid to handle radical Islamic terrorism or inner city crime.

“Ronald Reagan was made to win the Cold War, and I believe that Donald J. Trump was made for this moment of turmoil in the United States,” Clarke said.

Amos Mayberry/The Badger Herald

Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson also compared the Republican nominee to Reagan.

He said the country was at a pivotal point, and just like Reagan’s, Trump’s election would lead the country into a tough-on-crime era.

“We have the opportunity, ladies and gentleman, to elect another individual that is leading a movement,” Thompson said. “A movement of patriotism, of supporting law enforcement officers, of getting tough with criminals and saying you’ve got to have law and order.”

And abroad, Trump said while it isn’t his intention to deploy the military, bolstering it is the best way to show other countries the dominance of the U.S. on the world stage. In contrast, Trump said, his opponent Hillary Clinton would further dismantle the military.

“It’s all about we,” Trump said. “This is a movement, folks. A movement like they’ve never seen before.”

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Categories: Local Media

Madison man shot early Wednesday morning

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 3:02pm

A male in his 20s was shot in the 2700 block of McDivitt Road Wednesday morning.

According to a MPD incident report, detectives believe the shooter specifically targeted the victim and it was not a random act of violence.

A suspect has not yet been identified.

The victim was found in the street, suffering from a life-threatening head wound and is being treated at a hospital.

Investigators have recovered more than 25 shell castings and the preliminary investigation suggests more than one gun was fired. At least two bullets hit a nearby apartment building, but there were no reported injuries.

Leopold Elementary School was placed on a lockdown as a precautionary measure.

In the most recent update, MPD announced that there is no longer any imminent danger to those working or living in the area.

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Categories: Local Media

UW student employee hours cut under Affordable Care Act regulations

Tue, 09/27/2016 - 11:17pm

Looking to engage students on campus in wider labor issues, Student Labor Act Coalition kicked off a campaign Tuesday to raise the campus minimum wage to $15 an hour.

SLAC representatives said this is related to a change in campus regulations restricting student employees to a 29 hour work week.

Over the summer, the University of Wisconsin capped the number of hours student employees can work in response to regulations installed by the Affordable Care Act, a move UW believes will cause little harm but has students concerned.

The ACA requires large employers to provide health care coverage to individuals who work at least 30 hours a week. Because the UW doesn’t have the ability to provide health care for student employees, UW spokesperson John Lucas explained in an email to The Badger Herald that the new regulations limit students to working no more than 29 hours a week.

Lucas asserted that the impact of the new regulation is minimal. Out of 15,000 student employees, Lucas said only 30 work more than 30 hours a week.

Affordable Care Act limits student workers to 30 hours a weekUniversity of Wisconsin students with campus jobs will be limited to working 30 hours or less per week because of federal …

Brendon Dybdahl, UW Housing spokesperson, said of the 1,700 student workers he oversees he hasn’t had an instance of anyone going over the 30 hour per week limit, even before the ACA limits were enforced. Dybdahl said it is rare in his experience that a student manages to put in more than 29 hours while still keeping up with academics.

“Something that we have advised students on all along is the academic part of what they are here for, it’s their main focus,” Dybdahl said. “So we have never really encouraged students to go beyond [29 hours a week] because their schooling should come first.”

Yet student workers have a different view of these cuts.

Sophia Rogers, a member of SLAC said those who are working 30 hours a week or more need the money the most and are the hardest workers on campus. She said though some may argue the 29 hour cap may help students focus on their academics, it will only place a higher burden on low-income students who need the money to remain in school and pay for things like rent and books.

Rogers said the university is using the ACA as a “scapegoat” to justify a change that will save UW money.

“What they are doing is justifying a cut by saying it is benefiting the workers anyway but the fact is that workers need the money, they work for the money,” Rogers said.

A living wage: UW student workers fight for higher compensationDanny Levandoski, a political science and history junior at University of Wisconsin, recalled a time when he struggled to make ends …

UW student workers make a minimum hourly wage of $9 and at 29 hours a week that is only $261, a cap that Rogers said is unacceptable.

Rogers suggested that some of this burden may be alleviated if wages were increased to $15 per hour. She said the stress of limited hours and wages intensifies with the issue of a lack of health care that they could have earned by working more than 30 hours.

Yet Lucas said many students are still under their parents’ health coverage or the Student Health Insurance Plan, and thus the effort to stay in line with the ACA by capping hours to avoid the group health insurance plan is offset by these other options.

Lucas said UW is concerned about the cut and the effect it may have on student workers but efforts are being made in the future to help those that need it most.

“There is currently an active student worker exemption bill that would exclude students who are employed by an institution of higher education and carrying a full-time academic workload from being counted as a full-time employee in calculating shared responsibility regarding health care coverage under the ACA,” Lucas said. “We are hopeful that there will soon be some momentum with this bill and changes made so that students will not be negatively impacted by this law.”

Dybdahl said some exceptions to the 29 hour cap are available during seasonal periods, specifically in university housing jobs. During the summer, students may be approved to exceed 29 hours, Dybdahl said.

Yet there are still restrictions. Annually, student workers cannot work more than 1,560 hours, something they should remain mindful of, Dybdahl said.

Despite the fact that this hourly cap is expected to affect only 30 students, a fact that Rogers and fellow SLAC members don’t believe to be true, Rogers said it is a clear statement on what the university’s priorities are.

“Choosing to cut hours like this, even it it’s just for 30 people, directly reflects the university’s priorities which they are making more and more clear everyday,” she said. “The administrations wants to cut costs and they don’t care about the well-being of student workers.”

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Walker announces UW Credit Union expansion in effort to alleviate student debt in Wisconsin

Tue, 09/27/2016 - 10:56pm

In an effort to combat rising student debt in the state, Gov. Scott Walker announced University of Wisconsin Credit Union will expand its membership eligibility to all Wisconsin residents who have previously attended college anywhere in the U.S. or abroad.

In the past, UW Credit Union only served students who attended a UW System or Madison College institution. Under the new plan, membership will be offered to all Wisconsin residents, regardless if they attended a UW System or Madison College school.

For out-of-state students who attended a UW System or Madison College school, they will still be eligible to refinance their loans through UW Credit Union.

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“Today we’re here to celebrate in helping not students and alumni only in the UW System, but all over the state,” Walker said at a Tuesday news conference.

One of the main concerns Walker said he has frequently heard in public hearing sessions is how parents and students should plan for college. To address some of these worries, state officials created a new website to offer students and parents information on how to finance their higher education.

The website will also function to inform graduates of the 13 Wisconsin banks and credit unions that offer refinancing for student debt.

While UW Credit Union has changed its membership eligibility, the rates for loan refinancing will still vary per person. Typically, they offer interest rates ranging from 2.2 to 6.8 percent, which Walker called “competitive.”

The process of how one may refinance their student loans is no different than refinancing a mortgage, said Paul Kundert, president and CEO of UW Credit Union.

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“If you’re not making your payments or are not current with your mortgage, it will be very difficult to find a lender who will say ‘we’d like to transfer that debt [over to us],'” Kundert said.

For those who have established credit or collateral, they could potentially qualify for better terms, Kundert said. But like in the case of mortgage financing, some may find difficulty in getting their student loan refinanced if they don’t meet the terms.

Without giving young people the opportunity to get the resources to finance higher education, Scott Ross, executive director at One Wisconsin Now, called Walker’s plan “laughable.”

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“The idea that after Wisconsin went from 10th in the nation in terms of percentage of students who graduate with student debt all the way up to third under Walker’s term, and his answer is a website and ‘go to the bank’ is offensive as it is useless,” Ross said.

Instead, Ross said Walker and the Legislature need to consider some students may not have collateral to offer when they go in to refinance a loan.

Seeing as banks are not suddenly going to give their money away to people without assets, Ross said Walker’s plan will not change the way banks do business. But, he added, a change is needed to provide for those in the state who face student debt.

“Here in the state of Wisconsin, there is $19 billion of student debt [among] one million people and Scott Walker has offered them a website and a placard — and that is offensive,” Ross said.

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College Republicans officially endorse Donald Trump for president

Tue, 09/27/2016 - 10:45pm

The University of Wisconsin’s chapter of College Republicans Monday officially endorsed Republican nominee Donald Trump for president.

In a statement, the organization said while they don’t agree with every statement Trump makes or every policy he has proposed, they will support him as the Republican nominee.

College Republicans Chairman Alex Walker said it is important to stand with the Republican nominee just as many elected officials in Wisconsin and Americans across the country have done.

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Other College Republican chapters in the country, however, have chosen not to endorse Trump. Earlier in the summer, Harvard University’s chapter announced for the first time in 128 years, they would not endorse the Republican nominee.

Serving as the chairman not only to Madison’s College Republicans chapter, but also to the state of Wisconsin’s chapter, Walker said he has had the opportunity to meet and speak with hundreds of other College Republicans chairs from across the country. He said he found that despite some chapters making the news for not endorsing Trump, an overwhelming majority have chosen to support the Republican nominee.

“I don’t think it’s an issue for chapters that decided not to [endorse Trump]. If they decided not to, then that’s their decision,” Walker said. “But, the overwhelming majority of CR chapters and members across the country have endorsed and support our candidate.”

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Despite the controversial rhetoric Trump has employed in his campaign, Walker said the decision was met with overwhelming support from the executive board and general members.

As the organization stated in their press release that they don’t want to dissuade any members who may disagree with the decision, they will focus on promoting inclusivity through other events throughout the year.

“Our events are not tailored around our nominee, ” Walker said. “We have Sen. Ron Johnson, Speaker Ryan, Gov. Walker —there are all kinds of activities we participate in that don’t involve campaigning for a single candidate.”

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Likewise, College Republicans has always welcomed students with conservative ideals regardless of if they support Trump or not, Walker added.

But as the election cycle moves forward, so will College Republican’s support for their respective nominee.

“For us, it wasn’t a difficult decision because we understand that a Hillary Clinton presidency is something that millions of Americans can’t afford,” Walker said.

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MPD application numbers drop amid current tensions between community, police

Tue, 09/27/2016 - 10:40am

Only a few days into her internship with the Madison Police Department last year, Samantha Tiry right away could sense their deep commitment to the community.

As part of her criminal justice certificate program, the University of Wisconsin alumna was required to do an internship in the criminal justice field. She said she knew nothing about policing, but read peer reviews of internships with MPD and decided to explore one.

“I fell in love with getting out in the community, meeting people and helping and talking to them on their worst days,” Tiry said. “I felt like I could make a difference.”

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Tiry is one of 23 MPD recruits who were sworn into the academy Sept. 12. Over the next six months, the 59th recruiting class will be trained to become full-fledged police officers.

Now, two weeks into recruitment training, the current MPD recruit said she was surprised and impressed that everyone around her knew people in the community by their first names. Tiry said she is excited to change the view the community has toward police.

Despite excited recruits like Tiry, applications for MPD were at a four-year low in 2016.

Sgt. Tim Patton, MPD’s recruiting coordinator, said recent tensions between police and the community may have contributed to the overall drop in applications that MPD has experienced.

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Typically on the low end, the department sees a minimum of 500 applications per year, Patton said. On the high end, historical data has shown nearly 1,600 applications coming in.

Since 2012, the number of applications has dropped more than 50 percent. That year, the department received 1,508 applications. Four years later in 2016, that number has dropped to 673.

While part of the drop can be attributed to an improved economy since MPD is competing with an active job market for applicants, Patton also recognizes the current climate in the country as a potential factor. He said “non-traditional candidates,” who may already have established careers in other fields, are less likely to explore a career at MPD.

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“Recent calls for criminal justice reform, the significant attention to policing and policing relationships — specifically with communities of color — may have an impact on the hiring of non-traditional candidates,” Patton said.

Additionally, public confidence in police is dropping to its lowest level in nearly 22 years. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, only 52 percent of Americans have expressed either a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in police.

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Unsurprisingly, the amount of confidence varied between white and black citizens. UW sociology professor Pamela Oliver said this distrust is likely tied to officer-involved shootings of unarmed people.

Oliver argued there have been longstanding patterns of aggressive and coercive policing in communities of color and distrust in the police among those particular communities isn’t something new.

“Surveys 20 to 30 years ago showed distrust in the police as well, but recent news coverage of police killing unarmed people certainly reduces confidence in police and impacts the perception of police,” Oliver said.

Many people are thinking twice about becoming a police officer as there is a growing potential to be charged for misconduct or use of excessive force for acting in a way they thought was appropriate in the given circumstance, Patton said.

For Tiry, however, instances like those have only motivated her to use her to join the force to change the view toward police. Using her communication skills effectively, she said, is important in deescalating certain situations and upholding a level of transparency with the community.

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But despite the drops in both application numbers and confidence in police, Patton said MPD is looking for candidates who have a desire to serve the community — not police it.

“We want people with strong communicational, relational skills and that are service-oriented people that are ready to contribute to bettering the quality of life,” Patton said.

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Most importantly, Patton added, MPD is looking for a track record of engagement. Whether it being involved in one’s neighborhood or on campus, he said MPD values those willing to work inside and outside of their eight hours.

Similarly, Tiry said she hopes to use her experiences from UW to foster relationships with the community during her time at MPD.

“Everyone works hard to keep it a positive atmosphere,” Tiry said. “I hope to use my communications skills effectively so [the community and police] can be on the same level and understand each other.”

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Men’s Project promotes dialogue about the broad spectrum of masculinity

Tue, 09/27/2016 - 10:30am

When Ashley Viager was hired as a University of Wisconsin’s seminar coordinator in 2015, she realized something was missing: an outlet for men to talk about how gendered experiences shape their everyday lives.

Viager, co-chair of the broader UW initiative Men and Masculinities, introduced the Men’s Project, a registered student organization that provides a forum for discussing masculinity, in fall 2015 to fill this need. Viager initially developed the project when she worked at Washington University in St. Louis then brought the program to UW. Viager leads the Men’s Project with her husband Robert, the other co-chair.

“When we came here we noticed there was a gap, and we wanted to be able to provide opportunity for this type of learning and engagement,” Viager said.

The Men’s Project provides a space for any male identifying students to talk about gender stereotypes, emotional expression, feminism, gender-based violence and other issues, Viager said.

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Every semester the Men’s Project hosts two separate groups of men that meet for one retreat and six weekly sessions. Each cohort has 10 to 15 students and is facilitated by two faculty or staff members, Viager said.

The program kicks off with an overnight retreat to build a platform of trust that the cohorts continue to build on throughout the six-week project, Viager said. For many, this is the first time they are diving into their own definition of masculinity, and they have to trust others to support them, Viager said. 

Senior Dominic Ricci is one of the first members of the project, and he said the Men’s Project allowed him to be comfortable in his own skin while allowing him to define his own masculinity.

“Masculinity is very broad, but you never get to have the conversation of masculinity with your friends,” Ricci said. “There is an emotional want to share with peers.”

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One of the major issues the cohorts discuss are the characteristics and actions that define men in American society, Ricci said.

In media, there is a pattern of strong male characters who are violent, entitled, heterosexual, overconfident and ladies’ men, Ricci said. Men who don’t have those popular characteristics are typically the people who are marginalized and bullied, Ricci said.

Adam Piasek, a fifth year senior at UW and one of the first members of the Men’s Project, said he was relieved to find other men who don’t relate to the normalized male gender stereotype.

“I was starting to feel out of place with other men that were acting in ways I felt were inappropriate,” Piasek said. “Seeing guys actively hitting on girls at parties and bars, and girls being visibly uncomfortable and guys not picking up on that bothered me.”

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One of the topics they focus on in their weekly sections is gender-based violence, power and privilege, Viager said.

Aggressive acts of violence and power from men often stem from the image of men in movies like “Fight Club,” Piasek said. Male viewers forget those are fictional characters and not true representations of masculinity, Piasek said.

Ricci said the biggest problem men have is they don’t have an outlet to express their emotions, so they remain bottled up. Discouraging emotional expression can lead to mental health issues and potentially violent activities, he added.

“As a man, the only emotion I feel I can show is anger and happiness, but I can’t be sad or depressed,” Ricci said.

Ricci said this could be why 98 percent of mass shooters are men and why men are 3.5 times more likely to commit suicide than women.

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Providing a space that allows for vulnerable discussions not only helps men better address some of these issues, but it also advances gender equity and social justice, Viager said.

Ricci said it is important for men to understand how gender stereotypes impact women as well. Similar to how men are misrepresented in the media, women are objectified and hyper-sexualized, Ricci said.

By acknowledging this fact and empathizing with women, men can better understand the issues women deal with, as well as feminism as a whole. Piasek said this sort of empathy is necessary to foster understanding.

“I want men to know that it is not just okay to be open, emotional and vulnerable, but it is essential to a happy life,” Piasek said. “Once you are able to open up and start living with emotion, life becomes a beautiful thing, and the Men’s Project is an incredible an avenue to get there.”

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