Hundreds of students marched on the University of Wisconsin campus Thursday afternoon for a call to action demonstration organized by the Blk Power Coalition. The demonstration was organized as part of students’ response to a video of a UW student using racial slurs and language.
The video began circulating on various social media platforms Monday. During a protest and student council meeting Wednesday, students called on the university to provide the support necessary for students affected and take action against Audrey Godlewski, the student in the video.
On Wednesday, students presented a list of nine demands to UW Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin, requesting she respond to the demands by Thursday morning. Mnookin addressed the demands in a letter sent to the Blk Power Coalition around 8:30 a.m. Thursday. At the demonstration Thursday, students expressed their disappointment with Mnookin’s response but said the demonstration served to uplift Black students on campus.
“We are very disappointed,” a student said at the demonstration. “But I’m very grateful that all of you showed out here. It’s really amazing to see that there is this kind of community and this type of support for us and for our cause.”
The student emphasized the importance of engaging with the ongoing fight for support for Black students.
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“Don’t give up on us, this is not over after today,” the student said. “Today is about joy. Yesterday was a lot of hard feelings, a lot of hard stuff that had to be said, but today is about celebrating us and the Black people on this campus.”
Students met at the bottom of Bascom Hill for the demonstration, then walked to Library Mall chanting. On Library Mall, students spoke, shared poems and played music. Demonstrators then walked up Lake Street, turning on University Avenue. The demonstration ended with students marching back down Bascom Hill.
In her statement Thursday morning, Mnookin addressed student concerns related to academic accommodations, safety on campus and mental health.
The Blk Power Coalition’s first demand made Wednesday was the investigation for expulsion of the student in the racist video. In her response, Mnookin repeated the sentiments from previous messages that the university is limited in what they can say and do related to the incident.
Mnookin invited students to contact professors and the Dean of Students Office for academic accommodations. Students had previously called for academic accommodations for students impacted by the video.
Mnookin also encouraged students to seek mental support from University Health Services, which has eight staff members who have specific experience working with students of color. Additionally, Mnookin told students there would be mental health counselors available at the Multicultural Student Center until the end of the exam period. In the Blk Power Coalition’s demands, students called for expanded mental health services for students of color.
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Many students expressed they do not feel safe on campus at Wednesday’s protest and ASM open forum. In her response, Mnookin encouraged students to report threats they experience to the UW Police Department. Mnookin also told students the Dean of Students Office is available to help with situations related to safety.
Finally, Mnookin welcomed a small group of students to meet with her to further discuss the demands made Wednesday morning and to determine specific actions that can be taken in terms of overall programming and funding.
But despite Mnookin’s response, many students at the demonstration were disappointed in the timeline and the extent of the measures taken by the chancellor’s office.
“We are severely disappointed in the fact that she did not address that yesterday while she was meeting with us,” the student said. “Additionally, we would like to address the fact that she did not tell all the professors on this campus that we need academic accommodations.”