Two alumni have settled an eight-year-long lawsuit against the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, marking the “official termination” of multiple lawsuits filed by students over the controversial and “illegal” dissolution of the Student Government Association in 2013, the plaintiff’s lawyer said.
According to Gary Grass, alumnus M. The settlement, reached on behalf of Samir Siddique and Taylor Scott’s lawyer, arrived in April but was formally sent to the Wisconsin Court of Appeal last week – closing a worrying chapter in the relationship between university administrators and student leaders. Siddique and Scott allege in the lawsuit that then-Chancellor Michael Lowell, who is now president of Marquette University, refused to recognize the student union election as illegal when Siddique was elected president in 2013.
In January 2014, Scott and Siddique filed a lawsuit against the university in Milwaukee County Circuit Court, alleging that Lovell acted illegally when the student union was dissolved. An independent investigation by a team of officials at the University of Wisconsin in Whitewater uncovered problems with the 2013-14 Student Association election, including old by-laws that were used to bar certain students from taking office and the lack of party registration forms. Lavell wrote to the outgoing Student Association president that he would not recognize the results of the new Student Association election, which announced the name of Siddique’s president for the 2013-14 academic year.
“While the UWM administration fully respects the right of students to self-government under 36.09 (5), we must ensure that the student body, as the only recognized representative for the management of all UWM students, is, in fact, open. And accessible to all UWM students to ensure its official UWM recognition as the sole student representative, ”Lovele wrote in a letter.
Lovell annulled the results and appointed a board of trustees consisting of students to form a new student government. Lovell permanently barred students voting for 2013-14 from taking office.
Members of the dissolved student union, including Siddique and Scott, reacted by drafting and dissolving a new student government constitution that guaranteed students the ability to elect their representatives. After collecting the signatures of more than 1,300 students on a petition in support of the new constitution, the disbanded student body was elected. The students again voted for Siddique as president and he demanded recognition from Lovele, who refused to give the university president.
In 2019, Siddique and John McAdams, a former political science professor at Marquette University who died last year, wrote an op-ed on Madison.com, a local news outlet, detailing how university administrators punished Siddique after the illegal election. To perform the 2014 Community Service Hour and to publicly admit to students that her group’s opinion was wrong to be emailed. They wrote that the refusal to send the emails resulted in an indefinite suspension from the university without the power to transfer, which led to Siddique and Scott suing a group of about 40 students কয়েক some of whom were part of the broken student government 14 in 2014. .
In the original lawsuit, Siddique and Scott stated that Lovell had “picked up” student board members as an illegitimate “puppet government.” Grass argued that the 2013-14 election should be upheld due to a lack of material found in the Whitewater investigation, which did not recommend canceling the Lovele election, he said.
“Perhaps they had an influence on the student government elected in 2013, which led the Chancellor to invalidate the election and oversee the appointment of an administration-friendly puppet government,” the complaint said.
Siddique and McAdams wrote on Madison.com that “conflicts existed” between the Student Association and Lovell before the 2013-14 election. According to Op-Aid, Lovell pushed for an increase in student fees to fund a new student facility costing more than 100 million; The Student Association, which had the power to set student fees, publicly opposed the proposal.
Lovell was fired on procedural grounds in 2017 over whether the student acted illegally in breaking up the government, according to Grass. And Siddique was exempted from misconduct and allowed to graduate. Scott said they settled for a total of $ 150,000.
The settlement is “mostly concerned” about whether Siddique and Scott’s civil rights were violated when the university tried to discipline them for calling the Lovell-appointed student government “illegal” and trying to introduce a new student government, Grass said. According to Grass, university officials have apologized to Siddique and Scott and promised reforms based on their recommendations. Siddique said the details of those reforms are still being decided. The university has lifted all disciplinary threats against Scott and Siddique, and has forgiven Scott’s outstanding debt of about $ 3,500 for tuition and student fees.
“Feelings are very mixed, something you’ve been involved with for so long is suddenly gone. “It simply came to our notice then. Inside higher ed. “It’s a bit disappointing that the university didn’t get a court order to stop some of its bad habits, but I’m cautiously optimistic that we can get the changes without further legal action, which is always the norm.”
‘Not accepting responsibility’
“In light of the potential cost of litigation, the university concludes that resolving four long-pending cases was in its best interests,” said a spokesman for the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. “Please note that liability has not been accepted.”
Scott said during the mediation of the complaint, university representatives told him and Siddique that their action was “not in vain”, as the university had promised reforms based on their recommendations.
“For me, the biggest thing was, we came up with the hope that we would [effect] There will be some positive changes, some policy changes, or even we will be able to comply with their laws, and they were not steaming the students and their rights under the law, ”Scott said in a statement. Inside higher ed. “The settlement is beautiful and everything. I would like to say again: it is better to apologize, it is better for them to say that our work was not in vain, and it is better to come up with a six figure settlement. But in the end, I want the policy to change, and that’s because I hope we’ve made some positive changes here. “
Will Kirley, legal director of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expressions, said Siddique should not have been disciplined for criticizing the university administration.
“The settlement is welcome, and to be honest … the university shouldn’t have taken so long to acknowledge their obligation,” Kirley said. “Of course, the university here is not admitting anything wrong. But students have the right to criticize their administration, and of course to criticize their elected officials about student government. So the amount of discipline these students are facing for their criticism is a good result. “
However, Kirley said he did not expect the settlement to set a precedent.
“First of all, it’s a settlement,” Kirley said. “And secondly, it is a unique set of information that other students can either expect to be less likely to involve themselves in similar disputes, or they will not be able to rely on a settlement or some kind of persuasive authority in their own case. Interesting story, but I think it’s probably confined to the participants here, in terms of its impact. “