As Wisconsin redistricts, partisan gridlock ensues by Emmett Nolan
“Light the Night” Fundraiser for Leukemia Lymphoma Society Is Back
Hundreds of Madison East High School students walk out in support of a student allegedly raped; other Madison high schools follow
By Sydney Steidl
The Leukemia Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) “Light the Night” fundraiser made its return Thursday, October 14th after being held virtually last year due to the pandemic.
The primary purposes of the LLS, as stated on their website, are to fight for policies that give easier access to new treatments, cover costs for treatments, and to raise awareness for blood cancers in order to increase the knowledge of early symptoms. Additionally, they work to fund further research, which they have done with over $1.3 billion since 1949.
One of the organization’s largest-scale fundraising events is “Light The Night,” which takes place annually on a Thursday night in October. The event started in Milwaukee, Wisconsin 27 years ago when one family walked through their neighborhood with balloons in order to honor one of their loved ones who had been diagnosed. “Light the Night'' has since expanded nationally to 165 different events, according to the Madison chapter’s Campaign Development Manager Shannon Ratchman.
The event is a major component of the LLS community. “There is hands down nothing like the connections you make with the people who participated,” says Ratchman. “Really, our organization is designed to make relationships, and that’s something I personally love doing.”
Due to the ongoing pandemic, the event still looked different than it has in past years, especially because of the high number of survivor participants who are at high risk for severe cases of Covid-19. The organization upheld a strong mask recommendation in order to protect one another, as well as offered a virtual event the following Thursday for those who would not be able to safely attend the in-person walk.
However, despite the differing circumstances, “Light the Night” continues to serve as a strong fundraising event. According to Ratchman, the total of the three events held in Wisconsin are on pace to pass a million dollars raised for the third year in a row.
At the event, attendees may choose a lantern—an evolution from the originating balloons—from one of three categories: yellow lanterns to show remembrance for a loved one, white for survivors of blood cancer, and red to show support, either generally or for a specific loved one.
During the opening ceremony, one segment gave special recognition to the Honored Hero who, this year, was seventeen-year-old Madison West senior Sasha Posen. Posen spoke about her years battling leukemia and the difficult journey she underwent to arrive in her current state of remission. In addition to her strength in fighting her own cancer, she has committed to helping others, and her team has fundraised around $2,400 so far this season for the organization.
After the opening ceremony, the hundreds of lanterns were then lit, illuminating the streets as the crowd participated in a two-mile walk in the area around the Mallards stadium to show their support for ending blood cancers.
Donations can be made at Donate to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for the continued efforts of the LLS. If you would like to support Posen’s fundraiser specifically, you can do so at Sasha's Light The Night Fundraiser.
[Sources: https://www.lls.org/, https://www.lightthenight.org/]
By Lizzy Larson
Image from: Mikhail Shevelenko
Hundreds of Madison East High School (EHS) students walked out of the building on Wednesday, October 13 to demonstrate support for an EHS student who was allegedly raped off campus after the school’s homecoming dance and to protest the district’s response. Wearing red and carrying signs that included messages such as “you are not alone,” “no means no,” “no mercy to rapists,” and “kick him out,” students gathered outside of the school to listen to student speakers. Here, EHS student Feliz Casteneda expressed support for the student who was allegedly raped, and outlined several intentions of the protest. The most immediate was the suspension of the student who allegedly committed the rape, but Casteneda also expressed discontent for the response of EHS principal Sean Leavy and general district policies concerning sexual assault.
Following the outcry from EHS students, other Madison Metropolitan School District high schools followed suit. On the following Friday around 10:00 AM, wearing colors such as teal, pink, and red, James Madison Memorial, Madison Robert M. La Folette, and Madison West High School (WHS) students walked out of school for the duration of third period.
At the WHS protest, students expressed solidarity with the causes of the walkout at East, in addition to detailing their own experiences with sexual assault and grievances specifically pertaining to West. “People don’t understand the prevalence of sexual assault and misconduct at West. They think that it only happens at other schools, but it happens at West, and it’s a real issue that we need to solve now,” said student speaker Brenna Levy.
That Friday, EHS students also staged another walkout--this one organized by the school’s Gender Equity Club and Black Student Union--that laid out more specific demands for the district. These included education and training for staff and students about sexual assault and its reporting process both on and off campus, punishments for perpetrators of sexual assult both on and off campus, and a comittment by the district to support victims of sexual assault.
The response from the district has drawn scrutiny. In an email issued to WHS students and parents, principal Karen Boran commended students for their responsibility, but cautioned parents and students to remain safe, that school attendance policies will still be observed, and that although WHS staff will be in attendance during the event, it is not school sponsored. A similar statement was also issued by La Folette interim principal Matthew Thompson, stating “while we commend our students who continue to lift their voices on dismantling cultures of sexual violence, we ask you to encourage your student to stay in school during the school day on Friday so they do not negatively impact their instructional time.” Some students and parents interpreted these emails as discouragement from attending the protests and a dismissal of the significance of the topic of the protest.
Students, including EHS protest organizer Feliz Casteneda, had also expressed discontent prior to the alleged rape and subsequent protest with statements made by EHS principal Sean Leavy. Leavy apologized on that Wednesday for the way he spoke about the district’s consequences for non-consensual sexual activity--a “Level 5” offense in the district’s Behavior Education Plan, with a punishment of recommended expulsion--citing his explanation as “too technical,” and that it did not “meet the needs of our students and staff.”
“Our team would like to thank the students who lifted their voices to challenge me to clarify my response,” said Leavy, who continued to face criticism for his and the district’s response to the homecoming rape allegations. “The school has been incredibly uncooperative,” said Casteneda, “and nobody was helping us out or listening to our voices. Our principal, when we were telling him about it, he went ‘I know you have the name of a student that you feel committed a sexual assault,’ and we didn’t feel like it; we knew that shit happened, we were there, we have witnesses.”
Another critical point of reform student activists have pushed for is a clarification and revision of the reporting process for sexual assault within the district, including incidents that happen both on and off district property. When asked to clarify the district’s policy for reporting sexual assaults that occur off campus, district spokesperson Tim LeMonds was unable to provide specifics and pointed to the US Department of Education FAQ on Title IX. The district’s safety plan does not detail how administration should respond to incidents between students outside of campus.
“Every student at East needs to know exactly how to report [sexual assault] and the steps that will happen after they report,” said Whitman Bottari, an EHS student who organized the walkout on Friday. WHS student Brenna Levy also condemned the district’s reporting process: “the culture that is fostered around reporting assaults or sexual harassment is not one that makes survivors feel like their voices are actually being listened to. The mandatory reporting process can be so traumatizing that some survivors don’t want to go through the pain of reliving the incident so they stay silent. This needs to change.”
While the majority of the current planned walkout events are completed, students do not intend to stop campaigning for sexual assault justice and reform within the school district. In the midst of the protests, EHS formed “EHS Sexual Assault Campaign,” a club to raise awareness, and coordinate events, about sexual assault in the EHS community. WHS formed “Allies of Consent,” a club with a similar goal. Closing her speech, Levy concluded: “please do not let this just be a one and done protest. We need to make these changes happen now, for the safety of the survivors in our community and the future students that are going to walk the halls of West and every other MMSD high school.”
Sources: Wisconsin State Journal, Channel 3000, Wisconsin Public Radio
Image Credits: Mikhail Shevelenko
As Wisconsin redistricts, partisan gridlock ensues
By Emmett Nolan
Lawmakers in the Wisconsin State Legislature are scheduled to hold a hearing on the legislature's new map proposals for the state’s Assembly and Senate districts on Thursday. The new maps, created by majorities of Republicans in both chambers, will give the GOP a significant advantage in otherwise competitive districts and protect their majorities.
According to WPR, these majorities would persist through 2032 and "increase the odds that Republicans will win six out of eight of states' congressional seats." Republicans have had majorities in the legislature since 2011, when new maps created by party officials and lawyers gave them significant advantages in competitive districts. Many of these maps packed cities into a few number of districts, while creating many large rural districts.
Democratic governor Tony Evers has created the People’s Map Commission, a nonpartisan group formed last year to devise fair maps for the state. Their 2021 maps, originally released in September and revised last week, have been met with skepticism or outright hostility from state GOP lawmakers. Notably, the commission's maps would maintain Republican majorities while creating fairer and more competitive districts. Evers intends to veto any partisan maps that reach his desk, setting the stage for prolonged court battles.
Should the issue of drawing maps make it to the courts, it wouldn't be the first time. Following the 2000 census, congressional legislative plans were issued by the legislature. However, it was found that the legislature failed to pass a state legislative plan, and cases were brought to state and federal courts. The state courts deferred to federal courts, which issued these state plans in May 2002.
The Wisconsin State Supreme Court has agreed to take up lawsuits from Republicans regarding the state's redistricting, should the legislature and Governor Evers fail to reach an agreement. The court, with a 4-3 conservative majority, could play a crucial role in the outcome of the new maps.
Many have called for federal courts to take up this issue. They cite a precedent of redistricting being handled on the federal level, such as in the case of the 2000 redistricting. In the state court's majority opinion, Justice Rebecca Bradley wrote that "We have a history of letting federal courts handle these matters, perhaps because it removes us from the thicket of political conflicts. Our job, however, is not to avoid controversy but to declare the law."