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Monday, September 20, 2021

Town hall meets in response to anti-Semitic incident

Six panelists from UW-Madison held a town hall meeting Tuesday to address a Jan. 26 incident where photos of Hitler’s face and swastikas were taped to a student’s door in Sellery Hall.

Three weeks after the incident, photos of the door began circulating Feb. 17 on Facebook, and spread quickly around the Madison community as well as the country. 

University administration sent an email the following day to the entire student body to inform them of the incident.

Vice Provost and Dean of Students Lori Berquam said she wanted to address four main areas of concern, including how the university labeled the incident, how quickly the incident was responded to, the severity of discipline and the lack of immediate campus-wide notification.

She said the university never labeled the incident as a prank and does not believe that it was. Berquam said two students were disciplined for the incident, but the nature of this discipline is confidential and protected under Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Berquam also said that while Sellery B tower was notified within 24 hours of the incident, the information was not released to the rest of campus.

Chief Diversity Officer Patrick Sims said he wanted to hear more feedback from students to improve how the university handles future incidents.

“We are recognizing that perhaps there should have been more conversation,” Sims said.

The meeting then opened to questions from the audience, which was full of students and community members.

UW-Madison student Betsy Hose said she was glad the meeting took place, but thought some important questions were left unanswered.

“I’m really glad that they had a talk, it was necessary, but I did not feel like they discussed some important questions,” Hose said. “The Facebook post that got this issue brought up and got over 185 shares got deleted less than 24 hours later. It was not discussed where the Facebook post went.”

UW-Madison graduate Michael Penn II said that while the town hall meeting was positive, further action from the student body is needed to create a more substantial change.

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“I graduated last May and this is the first time I have been in a place where Jewish students are the majority and talking about their oppression so I’ve been sitting back and listening… I don’t speak for all black folks but I feel you all, it’s screwed up,” Penn II said. “We can’t depend on the university to do all of the work for us, but if we all organize together we can do a lot.”

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