Letter: A message to our Native students

March 11, 2016

The following message was sent on March 11 via email to all UW–Madison students identifying as Native American. 

On Wednesday evening, members of our community gathered to pray for healing for Native American survivors of sexual assault.

Our community efforts were impaired when several individuals perpetrated offensive mock war cries and chanting that disrupted, devalued, and damaged the event. The disruption came from a window in Dejope Hall.

We recognize the pain and anger this incident caused, and it is not acceptable in the UW–Madison community.

We are deeply saddened that the students, faculty and staff, community members and invited Elders had to experience this mocking of traditional Native culture.

The university takes incidents like this seriously and is moving quickly to address it. The incident was immediately reported by the American Indian Campus and Community Liaison and a Multicultural Student Center staff member. We are trying to identify those involved and will seek an educational response and disciplinary action, if appropriate.

Our first priority is your well-being. The American Indian Campus and Community Liaison, Multicultural Student Center and the Dean of Students office are available if you would like to speak to someone about this incident or any other challenges you may face on campus.

We will also be present at the Wunk Sheek meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 16, to hear from Native students about their concerns.

Ongoing education to the broader community is essential as we aim to prevent incidents such as this one. We will be hosting a meeting in in Dejope next week to discuss the incident and provide further education to students living in Dejope, Bradley and Phillips residence halls; this will be part of ongoing efforts to address mistreatment of Native people and any type of bias, hate, or prejudice present on campus.

This incident was disrespectful to Native ceremonies and culture and it diminished the experiences of survivors of sexual assault.

If you become aware of incidents of bias or hate, we encourage you to report at go.wisc.edu/reporthateandbias.

We will address all reports to ensure our entire campus feels welcomed, valued and safe.

Lori Berquam
Vice Provost and Dean of Students

Jeff Novak
Director, University Housing

Patrick Sims
Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer