Statement on Oct. 29 fan incident

October 30, 2016

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank released the following statement on Oct. 30 in response to a fan incident at the UW-Nebraska game on Oct. 29.

“Yesterday, during what should have been an athletic contest that united the Badger community, an individual wore a costume to Camp Randall that for many of us evoked images of lynchings of African-Americans from this country’s past.  The hateful message this sends to our entire community is contrary to our deeply held values – civility, respect, and the celebration of diversity.

Immediately upon learning of the costume this individual was wearing, stadium staff spoke with him and asked him to remove the noose from his costume. The individual complied and was allowed to stay in the stadium.

Some have asked why the individual was not ejected. Once the noose was removed, the decision was made that the remainder of the costume fell within the stadium’s costume policies.  This was consistent with our handling of other instances of individuals wearing clothing containing offensive language.

As offensive as this costume was, I believe our university must resist the desire to outlaw forms of speech and political dissent with which we disagree. We strive to build a campus community in which ideas and expression are exchanged freely, but also constructively, respectfully and in a manner that advances educational opportunities for our students.

On a personal level, I can say this costume and expression fell painfully short of this standard. This individual was not seated in the student section and we do not know whether he had any affiliation with the campus, but this incident is a further reminder of the work still to be done to build a stronger and more inclusive community here at UW and within the city of Madison.

To Badgers who have spoken out against yesterday’s incident, thank you for expressing your disapproval of this type of display.  Open debate and diversity of thought thrives best in environments where those with different views show respect to each other.

We will be holding a series of important conversations about these issues and many others at the Annual Fall Diversity Forum taking place from 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 1 to 1 a.m. on Nov. 2 in Union South. Please visit diversity.wisc.edu for more details and information.”