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Friday, April 16, 2021

Students involved in Dejope bias incident issue apology

Several students involved in a bias incident at Dejope Residence Hall emailed a letter of apology Wednesday to different members of the UW-Madison campus community.

The students involved in the March 9 incident admitted their actions at the time were painful, but said they “never intended for [their] actions to be hurtful.” The students stressed that the act was not “racially motivated or meant to exclude anyone from campus,” as they did not know the ceremony was being held for. The letter did not include the names of the students involved.

“I hope it's an honest letter,” said UW-Madison junior and co-leader of campus Native American organization Wunk Sheek, Kelly Holmes. “I hope that the letter truly reflects their experience.”

The bias incident referenced in the letter occurred when students from inside Dejope Residence Hall mocked a Native American healing circle being held outside by chanting stereotypical war cries. The students’ chants interrupted a Ho-Chunk elder as he prayed and conversed with students during the healing ceremony.

The ceremony was being held for sexual assault victims after a recent national survey revealed that 47 percent of Native American women at UW-Madison reported being sexually assaulted during their time on campus.

Holmes said she hopes the letter will help the healing process following the incident.

“It seems really rehearsed in a way, like not something that I would imagine students to say but as I mentioned if it's honest then it does help heal,” Holmes said. “If they really meant it then that's awesome, their recognition and advocacy would be great.”

Holmes said she is satisfied with how the process has been handled following the official report of the incident. She said she was happy that students seemed to be educating themselves.

“I am glad that the people met with Gerald, the elder they interrupted,” Holmes said. “That's what was really important to me.”

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