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Saturday, September 18, 2021

BlackOut member details incident of discrimination during the Board of Regents protest

BlackOut member details incident of discrimination during the Board of Regents protest

A UW-Madison student detailed a recent instance of racial discrimination on campus while speaking at BlackOut’s protest of the Thursday Board of Regents meeting.

UW-Madison junior Misha Johnson emotionally told the Board of Regents about an experience of discrimination that occurred Wednesday night against Native American students, where several students in Dejope residence hall interrupted a healing circle by mocking the participants with racially insensitive calls and chants while flicking the room’s lights on and off. 

A Ho-Chunk elder was also on campus for the healing ceremony and to educate students about Native American traditions. 

Dejope residence hall holds a special significance for many Native Americans on campus. The name translates to “four lakes,” which refers to lakes Mendota, Monona, Waubesa and Kegonsa, in the Ho-Chunk language.

Several organizations, including the Wunk Sheek group and the Multicultural Student Center, helped plan the healing circle, which has both religious and cultural significance.

Johnson said the Board of Regents need to hear about the experiences of marginalized UW-Madison students.

“I think it’s really important to get a lot of different voices and perspectives when it comes to [incidents of discrimination],” Johnson said. “I was looking at the board and it doesn’t look very diverse at all.”

The healing circle was held Wednesday night for the Native American women because of recent nationwide survey that revealed nearly 47 percent of current Native American women at UW-Madison reported being sexually assaulted.

While telling the Board of Regents about the incident, Johnson became emotional and had to stop several times.

“As a future educator I always have to have something written when I talk,” Johnson said. “But I really used this incident as my motivation and I just really spoke from my heart this time.”

University Housing has begun a student conduct investigation to determine the students who participated in the incident. The Hate and Bias Incident Team is also looking into the incident, though currently the number of students involved is still undetermined.

UW-Madison Director of News and Media Relations Meredith McGlone said the incident was “deeply disturbing” to both the participants of the healing circle and also the entire UW-Madison community.

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McGlone stressed that this incident “is not what the university stands for” and she encouraged any students with information about the Wednesday night incident to report it to kelly.giese@housing.wisc.edu.

Updated at 10:46 a.m. March 11

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