College News

ASM leaders upset with university reaction to costume depicting Obama in noose

Associated Students of Madison Chair Carmen Goséy condemned the university’s initial response to a costume depicting Obama and a noose that appeared during Saturday’s football game.

Image By: Ben Golden

Associated Students of Madison leaders condemned the university’s response to the costume of Obama and a noose that appeared at Camp Randall on Halloween and has angered many in the community.

Goséy said that, contrary to the university’s first response letter, the costume was not free speech.

At the Student Council meeting Wednesday, Goséy said she refused to add discussion about a campus-wide diversity statement to the body’s agenda until Patrick Sims, vice provost for diversity and climate and chief diversity officer, spoke out against the incident and condemned the university’s first response to it.

“It clearly was hate speech. Not acceptable. Chief Diversity Officer, where are you?” Goséy said. “How can we pass a diversity statement when you're not speaking out against this issue?”

The statement is an initiative from Sims’ office that would institutionalize diversity as one of the school’s guiding principles. Each of UW-Madison’s shared governance groups aside from ASM has approved it.

After receiving the university's first statement on the issue, Goséy sent an email requesting a meeting with Barry Alvarez, head of UW Athletics, to discuss how the situation was handled. Goséy, ASM Vice Chair Mariam Coker and Student Activity Center Governing Board Chair Katrina Morrison met with Alvarez, community leaders, a lawyer and others Wednesday morning.

Coker said the meeting was frustrating.

“They are talking about this in the realm of the First Amendment ... We were dancing around the issues,” she said. “The issue is cultural humility and cultural competency.”

Coker said she was frustrated that this costume was even allowed into the stadium, and is increasingly frustrated that a noose was not seen as a weapon by officials.

“Only certain populations see nooses as weapons,” Coker explained. “That could have incited something. The fact they didn’t think that could have incited something is an issue.”

At the meeting with Alvarez, ASM representatives called for broader definitions of what constitutes a threat or an act of terrorism, an apology and for Alvarez and his “white peers” to go through cultural humility training.

“We should want better for our black community,” Goséy said.

UW-Madison spokesperson Meredith McGlone said that Sims spoke “at length” about the issue during Tuesday’s university diversity forum. Additionally, she said Alvarez and Chancellor Rebecca Blank have begun a policy review that will be in effect for the next football game Nov. 12.

Posters appeared across campus after university officials labeled the noose incident at Saturday’s football game a matter of free speech.

The incident also spurred a number of posters left anonymously around campus reading, “A man was lynched at UW yesterday & guess what they called it.” McGlone said the university is aware of the posters but does not have an institutional position on them.

ASM released a letter Friday morning to Blank signed by Goséy, Coker, Morrison and Ali Khan, chair of ASM’s Equity and Inclusion Committee, expressing their disappointment in the university's action on this and other issues related to diversity and inclusion.“Black students’ safety has been on the backburner of this institution’s concern,” the letter said. “The university not acting upon such happenings breeds a hostile climate where all stakeholders of UW are affected.”

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