In spring 2017, a diverse coalition of student organizations at the University of Wisconsin – Madison launched a campus-wide campaign to pass a student government resolution urging the university to divest from companies complicit in environmental and human rights abuses including fossil fuels, private prisons, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and Israeli abuses of Palestinian rights.
In the wake of the resolution’s passage, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law demanded that the university rescind the resolution and punish several students, including student government chairperson Carmen Gosey – who backed the resolution – and adopt a discredited definition of antisemitism that classifies virtually all Palestinian rights advocacy as inherently antisemitic.
Palestine Legal wrote the University demanding that the administration take action to protect students’ First Amendment right to advocate for Palestinian rights, and to protect students of color from a pattern of harassment and discrimination.
Pattern of Harassment and Discrimination Against Palestine Supporters
Several students of color involved in the divestment campaign, including Gosey, who is Black, and members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), faced a pattern of racist, sexist, homophobic and Islamophobic harassment and discrimination from on- and off-campus groups, including online messages such as:
- “you fa***ts are f***ing gonna lose; Islam/Palestine is a terrorism communist f****”t state.”
- “you are the perfect example of affirmative action … no other way you could of [sic] made it to college…ghetto trash n****r.”
- “We need to completely eliminate all affirmative action for any group before our college goes down the drain due to your inferior quality types.”
Palestine Legal wrote the University Chancellor. The letter called on the university to take necessary steps to ensure that these students are afforded educational opportunities free of harassment and discrimination, including meeting with and providing support to the targeted students and rejecting Brandeis Center’s demand to adopt the discredited and overbroad definition of antisemitism. The university failed to take any steps to address the situation.
Kenneth Marcus’ Brandeis Center Sides with White Supremacy (and Zionism)
Gosey and SJP were singled out in the Brandeis Center letter, which chastised them for condemning white supremacy and Zionism, calling their statements “unacceptable.” The Brandeis Center urged university officials to specifically reprimand Gosey for saying “Fuck White Supremacy” at a student government meeting.
See Palestine Legal’s letter to UW-Madison Chancellor Blank here.
Select Media Coverage
- Palestine Legal calls on UW to recognize ‘harassment and discrimination’ against former ASM chair, Emilie Burditt, The Badger Herald, (November 9, 2017)
- Former ASM chair faced harassment, discrimination after divestment, letter says, Maggie Chandler, The Daily Cardinal, (November 9, 2017)
- An Advocate for Israel Draws Fire as he Nears Confirmation to Civil Rights Post, Erica L. Green, The New York Times, (January 18, 2018)