Content creators and students are calling for the expulsion of a University of Wisconsin-Madison student after her racist rant threatening the Black community went viral on social media. As of May 18, the student in question has yet to be expelled.
According to the UW-Madison’s student paper The Daily Cardinal, a video of a white female student, who has since been identified as sophomore Audrey Godlewski, began circulating online as early as May 1. Godlewski is heard making racist, anti-Black remarks as well as references to slavery.
In a statement released by the university on May 1, Godlewski’s “deeply harmful and offensive racist slurs and references” were denounced, but school officials stated that they “can’t limit what students and employees post to their personal social media accounts” and they can’t “take action against posts that are not unlawful.”
Howard Schweber, a UW professor of Political Science and Legal Studies, advises that the university allegedly has no basis for taking action against Godlewski.
“This is not a matter of the university choosing not to take disciplinary action – they simply cannot, without running afoul with the First Amendment,” said Schweber via CBS 58. “Even the speech that is otherwise protected can become unprotected if you say it to someone face-to-face, and it’s what’s called ‘fighting words.'”
TikTok creator @auntkaren0 discussed the discourse surrounding the now viral video, specifically the sit in that was organized by The Blk Pwr Coalition, a student group at the university, on May 3, in response to the institution’s inaction regarding the matter.
“So several Black students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are staging a sit in right now to deliver their list of demands to the university’s chancellor,” @auntkaren0 explains. “If you look closely, you can see that several of the students have their mouths taped shut, showing the silence that the university is showing to them. In some of those demands that they’re requesting is an apology, they want a thorough investigation done as it relates to Audrey, and they want to know and make sure that this kind of incident doesn’t happen again. And if it does, proper steps are done.”
“freedom of speech but not freedom of consequences,” @cheliniengo8 wrote.
“Yeah UW Madison is the largest in the UW system. That girl not being expelled is disgusting,” @twintoes replied.
“I went to UW-Madison and protested and advocated so much— so much racism is seen into the fabric of UW,” @thida_eats_food revealed.
“I hope the sports players refuse to suit up! Madison loves their sports so hit them where it hurts,” @theemoniquefields commented.
At around 11 a.m., Mnookin showed up to the protest and delivered a short speech. She was allegedly present for approximately 20 minutes.
“I know the strength you bring to us and I know the great support for the value of diversity and bringing different, multiple voices to this institution,” Mnookin said via The Daily Cardinal. “Given your demands, I hear your pain. Let me take [the demands], let me read them carefully, let me think about what we can do as next steps and I will be getting back to you.”
In a letter sent on May 4 to the Blk Pwr Coalition, Mnookin advised that she, along with her “leadership team,” are “committed to continue engaging and collaborating with you in good faith to address your concerns” and that they “welcome the opportunity to meet with a small group to talk through the issues” in the petition “so that we can work together to achieve meaningful improvements and results.”
Mnookin does advise that while “this is not what you want to hear,” the university is “bound to obey the law” and “there are numerous legal constraints both on what we say and what we can do as a public university” to the “individuals within the racist video.”
If someone is able to post a video like that and remain to get a degree from the UW, that harms students of color and frankly makes me embarrassed to have a degree from the same institution. As an alum, I'm ashamed of the leadership's response. Do better.
— Heather Ogren (@heather_ogren) May 4, 2023
Students, alum and social media users who condemn Godlewski’s racist, anti-Black rhetoric are still calling for action to be taken. UW Madison officials, however, continue to assert their inability to punish her.
At the time of reporting, over 64,000 people have signed a Change.org petition urging University of Wisconsin-Madison officials to take action and expel Godlewski.
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