The University of Wisconsin-Madison student government, the Associated Students of Madison (ASM), really want the university to remove a famous statue of Abraham Lincoln that prominently sits on campus. The group claims that the statue is a reminder of the school’s history of white supremacy. The removal would be part of the ASM’s resolution that calls for anything on campus deemed as racist to be “re-evaluated and then removed or replaced” based on input from only BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) students.
Notice that the statement did not say re-evaluated and possibly moved. Instead, it assumes that every item deemed racist will be removed.
The group recently targeted both the 111-year-old statue of Lincoln and a large glacial boulder called Chamberlin Rock that has sat on campus for 95 years.
ASM Diverse Engagement Coordinator Chrystal Zhao said:
“First, I would like to say that not all representatives in ASM agree that [the] Abraham Lincoln Statue should be removed. With that said, Abraham Lincoln is a representation of ethnic cleansing of indigenous folks and the fact that UW-Madison stands on stolen land. Many students do not feel comfortable seeing him every day when we used to walk to classes. And his presence on Bascom shows that UW-Madison does not care about the ‘shared future’ plan we have with Ho-Chuck people and other first nations.”
Other students, such as Robyn George, chair of ASM’s Legislative Affairs Committee, say that removal is correct, but if that doesn’t happen then at least there should be a plaque by the statue listing out the things Lincoln did wrong.
“At the bare minimum, Chancellor Blank should follow the legislation passed by student council in 2017 (Legislation 23-1005-02) ordering the placement of a plaque next to the Lincoln Statue recognizing his wrongdoings. If not, we need to ask ourselves how future generations might view corrupt and harmful political leaders of today as we continue to erase their wrongdoings from history.”
Hmm, this needs some thinking. If the statue makes people uncomfortable, then they must already know what they consider to be Lincoln’s failings.
University of Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank doesn’t sound like she’s giving in. She issued a statement saying the statue isn’t going anywhere.
“The university continues to support the Abraham Lincoln statue on our campus. Like those of all presidents, Lincoln’s legacy is complex and contains actions which, 150 years later, appear flawed. However, when the totality of his tenure is considered, Lincoln is widely acknowledged as one of our greatest presidents, having issued the Emancipation Proclamation, persuaded Congress to adopt the 13th Amendment ending slavery and preserved the Union during the Civil War.
As the leader of UW–Madison, I believe that Abraham Lincoln’s legacy should not be erased but examined, that it should be both celebrated and critiqued,” Blank added. “To give just one example – without Lincoln, public land-grant universities like ours might not exist.”
The students are still angry.
The entire situation brings up one big question. What in the world do they have against a glacial boulder?