update deskSchools & Higher Education

University of Wisconsin Milwaukee ‘caved’ to anti-Israel protesters, say congressman, Jewish orgs

Hillel Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Jewish Federation are “appalled” by the university’s “shocking” choice to “capitulate to protesters’ demands, while also parroting their false inflammatory narrative.”

An anti-Israel protest at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on April 29, 2024. Credit: Henry C Jorgenson/Shutterstock.
An anti-Israel protest at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on April 29, 2024. Credit: Henry C Jorgenson/Shutterstock.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee reached a deal on Sunday with anti-Israel protesters two weeks after the latter set up tents on campus “in defiance of a state rule banning camping on campus property,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Mark Mone, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, stated on Sunday that the “voluntary dismantling of the encampment is the safest conclusion for everyone.”

In response to the protesters’ demands, the public university called for a ceasefire in Gaza and “for the release of the remaining Israeli and international hostages held by Hamas and the release of Palestinian men, women and children held as hostages in military detention in Israel” and condemned “the destruction of universities in Gaza.”

It also agreed to meet with four student representatives to hear their pitch for the university to boycott the Jewish state. To the anti-Israel protesters’ demand that the school cut ties with private companies that do business with Israel, the university said that it is prohibited by law to do so.

“UWM supports the civic engagement of students and encourages protestors to make their concerns heard with lawmakers, as it does with all student advocacy issues,” it added.

The university also said it would review its study-abroad programs to make sure that they do not discriminate.

“As we confirmed while discussing your concerns in our May 8 meeting, it has been determined that the Water Council had relationships with two Israeli-government-owned water companies, Mekorot and Israel Innovation Authority. These companies are accused by international aid organizations, including Amnesty International, of cutting off access to drinking water for thousands of Palestinians in Gaza, exacerbating water scarcity,” the university added in its agreement with the anti-Israel students.

“These are serious concerns that Chancellor Mone addressed with the Water Council president. At the chancellor’s urging, the Water Council no longer has relationships with these entities, and they have been removed from the global listing on the Water Council’s website,” it added.

The public university also noted that “camping on university grounds is a violation of state law and the student code of conduct.”

“Given that the encampment is a public demonstration in opposition to what the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia calls the ‘War on Gaza,’ the chancellor and the provost have agreed to forgo relevant citations or conduct violations for the coalition and the student groups copied on this message, if all conditions outlined below are met,” it said.

‘Uphold the law’

That all amounted to the university having “caved to the demands of protesters and rewarded bad behavior,” Rep. Bryan Steil (R-Wis.) stated on Monday.

“Instead of caving, the university should uphold the law, punish those who broke the rules, and maintain its business, investment and academic relationships with Israel,” Steil said.

“The university leadership did this to avoid any protests at commencement. In other words, university leadership thought the risk of enforcing the rules following a disruption at commencement was so great it was willing to break ties with our ally Israel,” he added. “This is unacceptable. All the more so when Hamas continues to hold over 100 innocent hostages.”

“We are deeply concerned to learn about the terms of the agreement between the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee administration and their anti-Israel encampment,” stated the Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest.”

“We are troubled by the decision to reward those who broke the rules by creating more discrimination against its Jewish and pro-Israel students,” it added. “We will comment further on the issue after we have the full picture.”

“Hillel Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Jewish Federation are aware of and appalled by the shocking decision of Chancellor Mark Mone and UWM to capitulate to protesters’ demands, while also parroting their false inflammatory narrative,” the Federation stated.

“On Yom Hazikaron, as we remember those who fell in defense of the Jewish state, and those murdered by terrorists, we are especially horrified that Chancellor Mone equated the innocent hostages in Gaza with those jailed on charges of terrorism by Israel,” it said on Monday. “This is reprehensible.”

“We are hearing loudly from the Milwaukee Jewish community today, fielding dozens of calls and emails expressing anger this process was handled so badly,” it added. “We will be issuing a joint response later today addressing the sheer failure of campus leadership on this issue and the many ways this negotiated settlement is exclusionary, inflammatory and materially harmful to students.”

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