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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


UW students call for action from university after release of racist video

UW says administration is aware of video, processing bias reports
Audrey Thibert

A video of a University of Wisconsin student using racist slurs and references began circulating on multiple social media platforms Monday.

The video showed a white UW student using racial slurs and expletives directed toward the Black community. Others could be heard laughing at the rant in the background of the video. Community members have identified the individual in the video as Audrey Godlewski, a sophomore at UW. The Badger Herald could not independently identify Godlewski.

UW released a public statement Monday evening saying they were aware of the video.


“While the university can’t limit what students and employees post to their personal social media accounts and can’t take action against posts that are not unlawful, racist slurs do not represent or reflect UW–Madison values around creating an inclusive community,” the statement said.

Multiple groups on campus, including the Wisconsin Black Student Union, the African Students Association, Beta Omicron Nupes, Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment, Associated Students of Madison and AHANA Pre-Health society, have also issued statements calling for action from the university.

In their statement, the Wisconsin Black Student Union said the video is in complete opposition to UW’s principles of inclusivity, diversity, morals and respect.

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“It is hurtful and absolutely repulsive, though not uncommon, to hear a white student use such hateful language and racial slurs that are disrespectful and degrading to our community,” WBSU said in the statement.

A petition was created calling for the expulsion of Godlewski. At the time this article was published, over 16,000 people had signed the petition. Over 1,000 individual students at UW have also reported the video as a bias incident through the Dean of Students Office. In a statement to The Badger Herald, the Dean of Students Office said it was in the process of reviewing those complaints.

Despite the petition and complaints, the expulsion of Godlewski is unlikely, according to UW Professor of Political Science and Legal Studies Howard Schweber. If the student’s expression was found to constitute threats or harassment, the university would have a basis for action. But if the only issue is the offensiveness of the statements, the university has no basis for action, according to Schweber.

“What the university can do and has done is declare its opposition to the attitudes that were expressed and the conduct of the student,” Schweber said.

In a statement late Tuesday evening, Chief Diversity Officer and Deputy Vice Chancellor LaVar Charleston was the first UW official to publicly confirm the university could not expel Godlewski.

“Some have called for the speaker of these racist words to be expelled. Some have called for worse,” Charleston said in the statement. “Simply stated, the law does not allow the university to take punitive action for words like these spoken in private spaces, even when those words are racist and hateful.”

Monday’s event is another in a series of contentious issues that have arisen between UW and Black students. In 2000, UW photoshopped a photo of a Black student onto an admissions brochure to seem more inclusive. Making national news, a 2019 homecoming video meant to connect campus featured almost all white students. Most recently in 2021, members of the Wisconsin Black Student Union and Wunk Sheek called for the removal of Chamberlin Rock — a 42-ton boulder associated with a 1920s documented racial slur — which UW eventually did remove from campus.

Also this week, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) proposed the elimination of diversity, equity and inclusion offices at public universities in Wisconsin.

The Dean of Students Office told The Badger Herald that they will likely not be in a position to share any action they choose to take against a member of the university community. In their campus-wide statement, UW said responses to bias or hate incidents vary depending on the circumstances, ranging from referrals to appropriate offices on campus to restorative conversations.

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“Our policies prohibit discrimination, harassment and other forms of misconduct while also upholding constitutional rights, such as freedom of expression,” the Dean of Students Office said.

In a statement, the Associated Students of Madison called upon UW to immediately mobilize resources to support Black students on campus, empathize with their experiences of marginalization on this campus, work alongside the impacted communities to address the issue at hand and cultivate a long-term sense of belonging and well-being for Black students.

“We unequivocally and without restriction denounce the horrific statements made, and we further condemn the ongoing and ever-present culture of exclusion towards the Black community at UW-Madison,” the ASM statement said.

ASM will hold an open forum during their meeting May 3 at 6:30 p.m. in the Hearing Room of the Student Activity Center and encourages students to come to share their experiences and thoughts. There will also be a Black Town Hall held May 2 at 7 p.m. in the Law School room in 2211.

In their statement, UW directed members of campus to community and university resources. The UW Multicultural Center listed resources available this week here.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated to include Chief Diversity Officer and Deputy Vice Chancellor LaVar Charleston’s statement, to update the number of students who had submitted bias reports and information about Robin Vos’ proposal. This story is on-going and still developing.

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