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Former ASM chair faced harassment, discrimination after divestment, letter says

Former Associated Students of Madison Chair Carmen Goséy dealt with discrimination and harassment after divestment last spring.

Image By: Leah Voskuil and Leah Voskuil

A letter sent to Chancellor Rebecca Blank this week alleged that former student government leader Carmen Goséy was the target of intense harassment following her remarks during a tumultuous argument about divesting from Israel.

Palestine Legal, an advocacy group for Palestinian rights, issued the letter to Blank Monday calling for the university to apologize for its “role in exposing students to such harassment and discrimination.”

Last spring, the Associated Students of Madison passed a resolution demanding that the UW Foundation cut ties with certain companies they said committed “human rights atrocities” against people of color, including fossil fuel corporations, banks and arms manufacturers.

An amendment that specifically called out certain companies doing business in Israel angered some in the campus community, after Jewish members on Council had been absent from one vote on the legislation when it was brought up at a meeting held on Passover. The previous meeting lasted nearly six hours as passionate students — both pro and anti-divestment — packed the room to speak out on the legislation.

In June, the Louis D. Brandeis Center — whose mission is to advance Jewish civil and human rights — commended Blank for the university’s swift reaction to the legislation the night it was passed, which stressed that ASM “does not control UW–Madison policies or practices and its actions … will not result in a change in our approach.”

Palestine Legal responded directly to the center’s letter, arguing in part that the demand to address Goséy’s condemnation of white supremacy as “unacceptable” should be rejected. The advocacy group also asked that the university take steps to ensure that black students in particular feel safe on campus.

Additionally, Palestine Legal’s letter takes issue with the Brandeis Center’s naming of two student leaders of color — Goséy and current ASM Chair Katrina Morrison — for misconduct. Palestine Legal alleges that this targeting only adds to the problems these students face every day at UW-Madison, a predominantly white campus.

“Brandeis Center’s letter contributes to the pattern of discrimination … that these students have faced,” Palestine Legal’s letter states.

The Brandeis Center letter also stated that there was general insensitivity at the Student Council meetings such as negative ethnic and racial stereotyping — except that it was against Jewish students.

“The comments made during and in the wake of the ASM meetings demonstrate a lack of understanding and respect for Jewish students and the Jewish religion,” that letter alleges. “Jewish students present at the various ASM meetings, and students who attempted to speak up on behalf of Jewish students, felt targeted and harassed.”

But Goséy said there was a difference between anti-Israel sentiment and anti-Semitism. 

“Palestinian rights are human rights,” Goséy said. “Being anti-Israel means being against the injustices and oppression that the government of Israel has placed on Palestine and Palestinians. Palestine deserves to exist and Palestinians deserve to be treated with the full rights of citizenship on their own land.”

Since divestment, Goséy told The Daily Cardinal she thinks the issue is still important and that although Council passed the legislation, their goal was not really met because the university failed to take action for its students of color.

“When people are offended by someone saying ‘Fuck white supremacy’ or someone saying ‘All white people are racist,’ they are not taking into consideration the fact that this has historical and systematic context to it and that justice has not been served for everybody,” Goséy said. She added that despite the divestment legislation, she and her peers “still could not get the university to take students of color seriously.”

During her time as chair, Goséy spoke up about the treatment of those students to university leaders. When a person attended a Badger football game in a Barack Obama mask paired with a noose, Goséy criticized the chancellor’s apology when she said that the costume, while offensive, followed free speech rights.

Additionally, Goséy sent out a letter to the campus community at the end of her term as chair where she urged parents not to send their students of color to UW-Madison because it “lacks the capacity, courage, and integrity to protect communities of color.”

UW-Madison’s first-ever campus climate survey, released last week, showed that students of color felt disproportionately unwelcome on campus. It also showed that those students feel they have to defend their viewpoints much more in the classroom, which Goséy critiqued.

“The hate that I received on Facebook I know is felt very widely on this campus, and I know it creates a lot of uncertainty and a lot of unsafety that I feel by being on this campus. [Conservative students] don’t have to stand up for their own views in the classroom setting,” Goséy said. “In addition to that, students of color often feel like they have to speak for their entire community. People of color — and I can say myself — feel far more ostracized on this campus than my white counterparts.”

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