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WUWM's Emily Files reports on education in southeastern Wisconsin.

Marquette students, faculty rally in support of student protestors facing discipline

Emily Files
Professors Sergio González, Stephanie Rivera Berruz, and Julissa Ventura are supporting student protestors who are being sanctioned by the university. They spoke at a Wednesday rally advocating for the university to take less punitive action against the students.

Marquette students and faculty are speaking out against the university’s decision to punish student protestors, who were calling for more support staff for students of color.

On Aug. 25, 10 Marquette students led a protest calling on the school to hire and retain more staff to support students of color. They pointed to a short-staffed Office of Engagement and Inclusion, and the Urban Scholars Program, which currently has one full-time staff member.

The protest caused the university to delay its New Student Convocation, which was scheduled for that day.

Ten students who participated in the protest are accused of violating the student code of conduct and are being sanctioned, according to advocates.

Cait Flynn
More than 100 students and employees attended Wednesday's rally in support of student protestors who are being disciplined.

On Wednesday, more than 100 students and employees rallied against the university’s discipline of the students. People held signs saying “Reconciliation Not Retaliation” and “Support Not Punishment.”

Assistant professor Stephanie Rivera Berruz helped organize the event.

"While we’re not denying students may have violated student conduct policies, we’re here to draw attention to the fact that their actions were reasonable in the face of a university that has not made the appropriate changes to care, to nurture and to support the diverse student body it champions," Rivera Berruz said.

Rivera Berruz and other faculty advocates say some of the penalties students are facing include probation, suspension and a $300 fine. They say the students are appealing the sanctions and not talking to the media for now.

Junior Olivia Ford says she’s been in touch with some of the students who are being disciplined.

"They are distraught," Ford said. "They were simply standing up for what they think was right, and did not think this situation could even happen."

Marquette released a statement saying it can’t share details of student conduct cases due to student privacy laws. Provost Kimo Ah Yun acknowledged the concerns that motivated the protest, writing, “It is clear we still have work ahead to foster greater inclusivity and belonging.”

This isn’t the first time Marquette has been called out for a perceived lack of support for students of color. After Black students protested in 2020, the university took several actions, including expanding its Urban Scholars program, which serves financially disadvantaged students from Milwaukee.

Student Josiah Anderson, who attended Wednesday’s protest, says he and other students of color have to fight to feel respected at the predominantly white institution.

"Just the fact that we have to come here to continue to fight to feel heard, to feel like we belong here, isn’t right," he said. "And then to constantly be told empty promises is demeaning, and it’s hard to keep your motivation."

Marquette has touted the diversity of this year’s freshman class, with 30% students of color.

Students say that’s even more reason for the university to increase the number of staff it employs to support those students.

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Emily has been reporting on Milwaukee-area education for WUWM since 2018.
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