White University of Wisconsin student cannot be expelled despite racist rant: Here’s why 

Francis Akhalbey May 04, 2023
Audrey Godlewski allegedly went on a racist rant -- Left image via Twitter | Right photo credit: Rosina Peixoto

Several student groups at the University of Wisconsin are calling on officials at the educational institution to take action after a White student was recorded using the N-word and saying she was going to make Black people “pick f**k**g cotton.”

In the video, which has since been shared many times across social media, the White student is heard going on a racist rant as other people laugh in the background. Per The Badger Herald, the UW student in question was identified as Audrey Godlewski by community members.

“I am going to go back and hunt every f**k**g little n****r who f**k**g did me wrong,” Godlewski, who is said to be a sophomore, is heard saying. “I literally hate all of them, I’m going to make them pick f**k**g cotton in the fields all day long until they die of f**k**g thirst…….their bodies are going to dry out because of how much cotton they are picking for me.”

Responding to the incident in a statement on Monday, UW said that while “the university can’t limit what students and employees post to their personal social media accounts and can’t take action against posts that are not unlawful, racist slurs do not represent or reflect UW–Madison values around creating an inclusive community.”

The Wisconsin Black Student Union, as well as other student groups at UW also condemned the White student’s actions and called on university officials to take action. In a statement, the Wisconsin Black Student Union said the video in question went against the university’s standards on inclusivity, diversity, morals, and respect, per The Badger Herald.

“It is hurtful and absolutely repulsive, though not uncommon, to hear a white student use such hateful language and racial slurs that are disrespectful and degrading to our community,” said WBSU in the statement.

Though a petition demanding Godlewski’s expulsion has also garnered over 16,000 signatures, a professor at UW, Howard Schweber, told the news outlet that the White student’s dismissal from the university was unlikely. 

Schweber explained that the university can take action if it is determined that a student’s comments comprise threats and harassment, and added that the university’s hands would, however, be tied if the problem has to do with the expressions being offensive. 

“What the university can do and has done is declare its opposition to the attitudes that were expressed and the conduct of the student,” Schweber said.

UW’s Chief Diversity Officer and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, LaVar Charleston, also explained why the university could not expel Godlewski in a statement on Tuesday, “Some have called for the speaker of these racist words to be expelled. Some have called for worse,” Charleston said. 

“Simply stated, the law does not allow the university to take punitive action for words like these spoken in private spaces, even when those words are racist and hateful.”

This recent incident is also not the first time UW has been embroiled in controversies surrounding race. In 2000, a Black student was photoshopped on an admissions brochure in an effort to make it look more inclusive. In 2019, a homecoming video aimed at promoting unity sparked outrage among Black students as almost every student that was featured was White. The university, in 2021, also removed a 42-ton boulder known as Chamberlin Rock from campus after students of color complained that it was an embodiment of racism. 

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: May 4, 2023


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