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Message of support and campus safety update

June 17, 2022

Note: An update about the incidents described in this post was sent to all students and employees on Tuesday, June 21. Please refer to this updated post for current information.

The following message comes from UW–Madison Police Department Chief of Police Kristen Roman, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer LaVar Charleston, and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Reesor:

We have been made aware of a physical assault that happened near campus this week involving a University of Wisconsin–Madison doctoral student. We also know that many in our campus community have had questions and concerns about the motivations of the attack. We are sharing what we know here to offer clarity and transparency and to reaffirm our efforts toward a safe and welcoming community.

What we know:

  • On the night of Tuesday, June 14, a UW–Madison doctoral student was assaulted by a group of individuals while walking off-campus downtown. According to the Madison Police Department, officers were dispatched to the scene. The international student from China reported being punched and kicked. MPD is handling the case and has no information to believe this was a racially motivated assault. The Dean of Students Office has been working directly with the student to offer care, resources, and support.
  • MPD reported that this was the third battery, similar in nature, to have taken place in the downtown area this week. The other two incidents did not involve UW–Madison students, and victims were from various backgrounds. Investigations show that these were random attacks, and MPD believes the same group of people were responsible for all three incidents.
  • On the night of June 14, a student reported to the University of Wisconsin Police Department that a group approached them and threw a banana. No words were exchanged, and the victim did not report any injuries. UWPD believes this was a random incident and no evidence suggests the interaction was motivated by racial bias. Investigators are working to determine if those suspects involved in the various City of Madison batteries were the ones involved in this campus incident.

While we don’t have evidence these incidents were motivated by race, we know that each time incidents like these occur, it has an impact on the well-being of all our students, and particularly our Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi American students, faculty, and staff, and other communities of color. We are committed to creating a safe community at UW–Madison where everyone feels they belong, and we know we have more work to do.

UWPD continues to work closely with MPD to ensure greater vigilance and a rapid response to student-involved incidents and potential hate crimes on and near campus. Some have asked why the university did not issue a WiscAlert, UW–Madison’s emergency alert system, related to Tuesday’s incidents. This system is only activated when UWPD can confirm a significant emergency or dangerous situation involving an immediate, actively occurring threat on campus (or heading toward campus) that impacts the health or safety of students or employees.

We are fortunate that UW–Madison is a relatively safe place. But we know our community is not immune to crime. Please keep in mind these few tips to help keep yourself safe:

  • Never walk, jog, or bike alone — especially at night.
  • Use SAFEwalk, ridesharing, or Madison Metro bus service when you can’t find someone to go with you.
  • If you must walk alone or in a small group, use well-lit, well-known areas.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings.
  • If you ever feel unsafe, call 911.

Any student who experiences or is affected by a hate or bias incident can file a report with the Dean of Students Office. The office works closely with University Health Services, UWPD, and the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards to follow up on all reports and to offer support. We encourage employees to file a complaint with the Office of Compliance if they experience a similar incident.

Counseling staff at University Health Services are available to talk with students affected by recent events or other personal concerns. After-hours medical advice and mental health support are also available.

Anyone with information about these or other crimes is encouraged to call the UW-Madison Police Department for on-campus incidents or the City of Madison Police Department for incidents occurring in the City of Madison. Individuals may also provide information about these cases and remain anonymous through Madison Area Crime Stoppers.

We are deeply concerned by this week’s reports and their impact on members of our community. We are committed to keeping you informed and to working toward making our campus and nearby downtown areas safe and welcoming for all.

Kristen Roman
Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief of Police
University of Wisconsin Police Department

LaVar J. Charleston, Ph.D.
Deputy Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer
Division of Diversity, Equity, and Educational Achievement

Lori Reesor, Ph.D.
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
Student Affairs