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WATCH: Racist video from UW-Madison student prompts campuswide racial unrest


25-second video of blonde student’s racist rant sparks massive protest, demands from black students for academic accommodations

Members of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Black Student Union took over the administration office on Wednesday morning and yelled at several campus leaders — including the newly minted Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin — over a 25-second video recently posted on social media that features a female blonde white student’s racist ramblings.

The sit-in lasted well over two hours, with several students screaming at officials that they do not feel safe and have been emotionally traumatized by the video as campus leaders apologized profusely and assured them they would do everything they could to make black students on campus feel more welcome, according to livestreams of the protest.

Members of the Black Student Union presented Mnookin with a list of demands that includes the creation of “safe spaces for students of color” as well as various academic accommodations.

“The release of the video has created an emotional response that has impacted our ability to focus on our academic responsibilities,” said one BSU member to Mnookin as he read off the group’s list of demands.

“The university must recognize the institutional racism and emotional distress for those who fall prey to its dictates. Therefore we must request immediate academic accommodations, extensions, incompletes, attendance exemptions, etcetera, as we seek to deal with the emotional impact of … this video, the threats that we have received in response, and the university’s failure to protect us.”

The protest, which took place inside the university’s iconic Bascom Hall, was in response to a video that surfaced on social media earlier this week showing a UW-Madison student repeatedly making racist statements.

She can be seen and heard implying that she wants to kill herself then adds: “I’m going to go back and haunt every f***ing little n***** who f***ing did me wrong. I literally hate all of them. I’m going to make them pick f***ing cotton in the fields, all day long till they f***ing die of f***ing thirst … their bodies are going to dry out because of how much cotton they’re picking for me.”

Though no details or context about the video have emerged since its release, the student speaking in it appears to be in distress and possibly intoxicated.

The protesters demanded she be expelled, but administrations talking to students on Wednesday demurred on commenting on her status as a student or whether she faces any discipline, citing the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Among administrators confronted on Wednesday were Chief Diversity Officer and Deputy Vice Chancellor LaVar Charleston, Dean of Students Christina Olstad and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Reesor.

The hours-long exchange was live streamed via the organization’s Instagram page.

“You failed me,” one student yelled out. “You failed us.”

Another cried out: “We are literally scared for our lives. This girl is calling us monkeys. This girl is calling us n*****s. … We are not statistics.”

After engaging administrators for some time, the students elected to remain silent while waiting for Mnookin, who was across town, to arrive. Mnookin is about to complete her first year as chancellor. Upon her arrival, students presented her with nine demands and repeatedly yelled at her that she has 24 hours to respond.

In addition to creating safe spaces for students of color and academic accommodations, the demands include “a zero tolerance policy for hate speech which may result in expulsion for racial activity.”

Additional demands are mandatory DEI training for all incoming students and expanded mental health services for students.

After delivering their demands, the students linked arms and proceeded from Bascom Hall to the Red Gym, home of the school’s Multicultural Student Center, in silence.

Since the racist video became public Monday night, a petition launched to have the student expelled has more than 40,000 supporters.

In response to the video, the university said in a statement released to its news website that while the student’s statements are protected by the First Amendment, they do not align with university values.

“The university is aware of a video recently posted to social media that contains deeply harmful and offensive racist slurs and references,” the statement reads. “The Dean of Students Office is gathering additional information, collecting bias reports, and offering support to affected students and employees.”

“UW–Madison strives to create a campus where everyone feels they belong. 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.”

In an Instagram post, Chaleston, deputy vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, condemned the video, but acknowledged that the student’s statements were protected free speech.

“Hate in all its forms has no place on our campus. We must reject racism and discrimination. At the same time, as a public institution, we are bound by the First Amendment, which protects a person’s right to say very offensive and hateful things.”

In the comments of the post, students urged the school to take action, citing Wisconsin state legislation defining academic misconduct that carries the possibility of expulsion if violated.

Legally, the school is bound by federal and state FERPA laws, which prevents it from sharing a student’s status at the school or whether or not they have been in contact with the student.

Olstad confirmed, however, that the school was investigating over 1,000 bias incident reports it received in connection with the video, she told the protesting students.

The Black Student Union did not respond to a request for comment from The College Fix on Wednesday.

Editor’s note: Updated to link to the BSU’s demands.

MORE: UW-Madison veteran’s memorial, statues, other campus fixtures defaced ahead of ‘What is a Woman’ Walsh talk

IMAGES: social media screenshots

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About the Author
Jackson Walker -- University of Wisconsin Madison