University of Wisconsin-Madison Students of Color Targeted for Organizing Against White Supremacy and Zionism

UW-Madison. Richard Hurd/Flickr 

UW-Madison. Richard Hurd/Flickr 

Today, Palestine Legal sent a letter to the Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Rebecca M. Blank, expressing concern over a pattern of harassment and discrimination by on- and off-campus groups and individuals targeting Carmen Goséy, a Black student leader, and Students for Justice in Palestine at UW-Madison (SJP).

The harassment and discrimination arose from a series of events last spring concerning divestment resolutions debated by the student government and backed by a diverse coalition of student of color organizations interested in advancing social justice and transparency in university investments. The resolutions addressed a wide range of issues, including anti-black racism, indigenous rights, immigrant rights, Palestinian rights and climate change.

In response to these efforts, Ms. Goséy and members of SJP faced a pattern of racist, sexist and Islamophobic harassment, documented in the letter.

In June, Kenneth Marcus and Aviva Vogelstein of the Louis D. Brandeis Center wrote to the university, depicting students of color organizing against white supremacy, Zionism and all forms of racism as “unacceptable.” The Brandeis Center letter singled out Ms. Goséy and SJP for wrongdoing. For example, the Brandeis Center letter condemned Ms. Goséy for saying “F--- White Supremacy” at a student government meeting, and for writing in an open letter to the university that “all white people are racist.” Although the statement was written based on Ms. Goséy’s experiences as a Black woman on campus, the Brandeis Center letter urged the university to address this statement, calling it “especially damaging.”

The Brandeis Center letter also urged the university to adopt the widely-discredited redefinition of antisemitism, which classifies virtually all speech supportive of Palestinian rights as inherently antisemitic. In September, the UW-Madison student government adopted this definition of antisemitism, a move that will likely infringe on students’ First Amendment rights to advocate for Palestinian rights.

Palestine Legal called on the university to, among other things, take immediate steps to support students of color targeted by discrimination and harassment, and to reject Brandeis Center’s demand to adopt the State Department definition of antisemitism.

See the letter to UW-Madison Chancellor Blank here.