Boycott the Madison Doubletree Hotel

September 14, 2011 | Blog

Yesterday’s student activism in response to the Center for Equal Opportunity’s “study” on affirmative action practices at UW-Madison was awe-inspiring. Students were articulate, passionate, and poised. They made their voices heard in powerful ways. They brought me to tears.

On the other hand, some observers of their actions were downright racist. Most notable among them was the Doubletree Hotel, site of the morning’s press conference. By evening, Madison newspapers were reporting that a Doubletree press release called the students a “mob.” Yes, a group of UW-Madison students, mostly students of color, was labeled by hotel management with a word meaning “disorderly and intent on causing trouble or violence.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. I was standing in the hotel lobby when the action began. The students were organized-not disorderly–and most definitely not intent on causing trouble or violence. They came to speak with Roger Clegg, who organized a public press conference, and let him hear the faces and voices students whom he claimed were admitted to Madison without proper qualifications.

There was no “mob” at the Doubletree Hotel yesterday. This local hotel, so often patronized by those associated with UW-Madison, should be ashamed of its employees who used such slander in describing Madison students. They witnessed vocal, spirited students of color and were afraid. That is appalling.

UW-Madison can choose to whom it gives University business. Until this issue is resolved to the satisfaction of the campus community, in my opinion it should boycott the Doubletree.

1 Comment

  1. Reply

    michael

    September 15, 2011

    I have sent the following to the Wisconsin State Journal:

    To the editor:

    Re “UW-Madison faculty, students fight admissions discrimination charge” by Deborah Ziff and Devin Rose:

    The press release from the Doubletree’s General Manager, Tom Ziarnik, describes the large group of students protesting the Center for Equal Opportunity’s report attacking the UW-Madison’s admission practices as a “mob” that “became increasingly physically violent when forcing themselves into the meeting room where the press conference had already ended.” And, it alleges that “staff were then rushed by a mob of protesters, throwing employees to the ground.”

    I attended the press conference, and was in the main lobby of the hotel afterward. There was no “mob” that was “physically violent.” There was an organized group of protesters whose loud chanting forced an end to the press conference, and which attempted to enter the conference room after the doors were open. Two hotel employees attempted to physically prevent the group from entering the room, and the group pushed through them. Members of the group attempted to confront Mr. Clegg, and made his exit difficult. Some followed him as he headed toward what I presume was the elevator bank.

    While this experience was clearly unfamiliar and unnerving to Doubletree staff, for the manager to depict what occurred as the actions of a “mob” is egregious, and it is difficult not to wonder if the fact that the group comprised largely students of color played a role in his characterization. While the protest may have broken decorum, its well-motivated participants do not deserve to be characterized as a “mob.” The Doubletree management should retract and apologize for the wording of its press release.

    Sincerely,

    Michael Olneck
    Professor Emeritus of Educational Policy Studies and Sociology
    UW-Madison


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