OSA calls campus to action

Kaitlyn Scoville, News Writer

Hundreds of students, staff and faculty nearly filled the Reeve Union Ballroom Monday night to attend a call for action regarding the racist and homophobic comment left on a campaign post during the Oshkosh Student Association elections.

The comment was posted March 13, on the first day of the election, and it said, “UWO Vote for these guys today unless you want a lesbian or a hmong to win.”

The students who collectively organized this event were OSA candidates Hannah Johnson, Alicia Obermeier, Alina Xiong and Pa Houa Xiong.

As it showed in the original email for the call for action, candidates Jacob Banfield and Ian McDonald were not included in the planning process.

“Making it about them is taking it away from all the people who talked today,” Obermeier said. “This incident was giving us a platform to talk as people of color, marginalized groups, queer community, together.”

Rainbow Alliance for Helping Others Achieve Equality, the LGBTQ+ Resource Center, Sisterhood, members of fraternities, members of the multicultural education center and many more student organizations attended this call for action.

UWO senior Sam Diemel expressed her concern about previous discriminatory comments from a professor she had.

“[Students] might have a different identity that they’re scared to show, and then that’s just reaffirming that they should be scared,” Diemel said.

Kou Thao was the first student to speak after the introduction, and he expressed his concern for himself and his peers.

“What I don’t see is anything being done about the diversity issue that we do have here on campus,” Thao said. “If nothing is done now to fix the diversity crisis that we do have here on campus, when will it happen?”

McDonald spoke on behalf of himself and Banfield, and he said that seeing the post initially was a heart-drop for the both of them.

“We can’t be upset that it’s out there; we need to figure out what steps we need to take to grab control of the situation,” McDonald said.

Pa Houa Xiong said she did not like that McDonald spoke on behalf of both candidates.

“You should be responsible for your stuff,” Pa Houa Xiong said. “You don’t talk on behalf of someone else especially when it’s this important, because if you have someone else address things for you we don’t know if it’s sincere, if it’s genuine. Ian was the one to reach out to us; he was the one to apologize.”

McDonald said that the upsetting thing about the whole incident was the effect it had on the students that it was targeting.

“It was sad to see something like that appear in an election that was going so well,” McDonald said. “Because we know that’s not who we are as people; it’s not something that we put out there and that we promote in any way. This was one student, and it doesn’t represent the campus.”

Chancellor Andrew Leavitt said calls for action are heartbreaking yet inspiring.

“As it happens it’s always good to have people tell those stories,” Leavitt said. “It always keeps the urgency or the immediacy at the front of people’s minds.”

From his statement that was sent out Tuesday morning, Leavitt said the students’ voices were heard and that staff and faculty are there to listen and learn from them.

“Be assured the leadership of this institution takes these matters very seriously and works hard to ensure all students, especially students from marginalized backgrounds, have access to higher education free from attacks based upon their personal identities,” Leavitt said.

According to the University Wisconsin System Chapter 17.10, the student who created the post has 10 possible disciplinary sanctions that they could face from this act.

The possible consequences for the student responsible includes disciplinary probation, enrollment restrictions on a course or program, educational or service sanctions including community service, suspension or expulsion.