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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Students call for action from ASM, university in student council meeting following racist video

Students of color shared experiences with lack of safety on campus, called for change from student government
Caroline Crowley

Over 100 students gathered at the University of Wisconsin’s Associated Students of Madison meeting Wednesday night to speak about ASM’s response to a racist video of a UW student.

The meeting followed multiple statements from the university which were criticized for being insensitive to students of color along with a protest Wednesday morning where students led by the Blk Power Coalition presented demands to Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin and her office.

ASM held an open forum and open caucus starting at 6:30 p.m. which lasted for over two hours to hear student concerns. Dean of Students Christina Olstad, along with other members of the UW administration, attended the meeting but did not speak.


Many students impacted by the racist video who spoke at the meeting shared their personal experiences with racism at UW to highlight how they don’t feel safe on campus. With experiences ranging from false reports against house fellows to physical and verbal attacks on Langdon Street, a common sentiment was that students of color do not feel safe on campus.

“I’ve experienced rampant racism on this campus,” UW student Kai Brown said. “Racism on this campus stops for no one. It is not convenient … And this is some of the stuff that people of color experience on this campus every day. I wouldn’t say I have had one day on this campus without being microaggressed. And on this campus, while it says students of color are welcome here, it is clear that we are not.”

Speakers called on ASM and other university leadership to act by responding to student questions and creating a path forward to support students of color.

UW student Xochitl Quiñones asked the student council if they condemned white supremacy, how they plan to hold school administration accountable for the lack of concern over students’ safety and what their long and short term plans are to make the campus climate safer for all students.

UW students protest, make demands for support in response to racist video

ASM Chair Kevin Jacobson said the student council would discuss plans moving forward as a body after hearing student concerns. One suggestion from ASM representatives was an overhaul of the Grant Allocation Committee, which currently only allows organizations to receive one event grant each year. Organizations who receive funding from the Student Services Finance Committee are also ineligible to apply for event grants.

These limitations create barriers for multicultural student organizations to support their members because they have fewer resources to begin with and can be limited in their event-hosting capabilities in situations when students may need support.

Another student asked whether ASM would oppose legislation proposed by Speaker Robin Vos to eliminate spaces for students of color. In conversations with the UW System president, Vos suggested moving funds from these spaces to other academic departments. Jacobson responded that ASM works hard to actively lobby the Legislature for money but expressed that members do not feel as if they are making an impact.

“They don’t listen to us, really,” Jacobson said. “We’ll work hard — we work with the minority leader’s office and also with the governor to try to ensure that funding remains.”

As a representative body, ASM only controls segregated fees. Placing segregated fees toward these issues would result in students having to pay more to attend the university, Jacobson said.

Some students said this money could be pulled from funding for the UW Police Department.

“I think every person of color in this room understands what funding looks like and what lack of funding looks like and what failure to fund systems looks like, right?” another student said. “I also want to say if you’re having trouble finding money, as I said earlier, we fund UWPD, right? That’s a wealth of money that can be used because when is the last time y’all were helped by UWPD?”

Former ASM Chair Ndemazea Fonkem sent a written statement to the council, who read her statement aloud. She expressed her disappointment and embarrassment in ASM along with her distrust for university administration, who she said used her image to service their reputation but abandoned her and students like her when they needed support.

“I’m angry, I’m tired and fed up,” Fonkem said. “No matter how many processing spaces, listening sessions, daily student vouchers, emergency grants for academic accommodations I receive, I will never trust this university again.”

Fonkem, along with other speakers, said UW has weighted the growth of white students above the well-being of Black students. They asked how far free speech will go, how much more will be tolerated and what needs to be said to make the university support its students.

The diversity of ASM was also scrutinized in the meeting. As a majority white council, Fonkem and other students called for better representation for students of color on ASM and for student representatives to do what the university did not in their response to the video.

ASM has released a statement to the press but not to the wider campus community. The statement condemned the statements made in the racist video and called on the university community to foster an inclusive environment.

“To our fellow badgers who were impacted by the harmful rhetoric displayed, your feelings at this time are more than valid, and we have much more to say and much more work to do,” the statement read. “We know this statement is not enough. We will continue to work harder and do better.”

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

Speakers questioned ASM’s decision to prioritize the media over students directly impacted by the video, and Jacobson said the issue would be addressed on all future occasions.

Wednesday marked the second meeting for the 30th session of the student council, and many representatives said they were still struggling to understand how ASM and their respective committees function.

Equity and Inclusion Chair Emmett Lockwood encouraged students to reach out to him and stated his intention to use his institutional power as an ally to bring students of color into conversations of change on campus.

ASM members should seek out relationships with students in the Red Gym to hear their voices and to ask for their help moving forward, another UW student said. Several student speakers asked white ASM members to use their privilege to strengthen the voices of students of color.

Students addressed university leadership, including Olstad, asking them to include student leaders of color in future conversations with the chancellor. They also requested the chancellor fulfill an earlier promise to meet monthly or semesterly with student leaders of minority groups on campus.

Olstad has received criticism from students for dropping off free ice cream coupons at the Multicultural Student Center, which she addressed in her remarks at the protest Wednesday morning. According to Olstad, she left coupons after speaking with students at the Black Cultural Center desk, who advised her not to enter and engage with the students inside.

UW student Brooke Messaye said it seemed like UW officials wanted to fight with student leaders instead of working with them, which would have resulted in a better outcome.

Other requests for the university and ASM included investing segregated fees into the futures of students of color, reworking ethnic studies requirements into social justice requirements, removing memorabilia of racism on campus and supporting the safety of marginalized students.

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