Open forum addresses racism and homophobia… Again.


Jack Tierney

Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Dr. Art Munin addresses student questions and concerns about consequences for students responsible for the hateful images.

“No… liberals, Jews, Muslims, Queers or Hmongs.”

Those words were written on a whiteboard in the house of two UW Oshkosh students and photographed by another UWO student on April 25. A handmade swastika sign was photographed in the same house. Both photos were posted on social media.

When asked by the person who posted the pictures on social media why the home dwellers had hateful epithets in their house, they responded “cuz we hate.”

Chancellor Andrew Leavitt offered one opportunity midday April 26 for the UWO community to respond.

“To anyone who brings hate into the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh community, I invite you to leave,” Leavitt said, opening the forum. “This will be our message from here on out.”

Student organization leaders challenged the chancellor’s statement when Benito Cruz, leader of the Student Organization of Latinos, said he wants to see results and wants to see the students who made the racist and homophobic comments punished.

“It’s a shame to be part of this community when there is so much hate,” Cruz said. “I’m excited to get out of here, but I’m worried for the future.” Cruz is graduating at the end of the semester.

Nick DA OX Metoxen, leader of the Inter-Tribal Student Organization at UWO, reiterated Cruz’s message and said: “Those people need to be gone. Not invited to leave. They need to be told to leave.”

Leavitt deferred the demand students made about seeing the punishment reported to Assistant Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students Art Munin.

Munin said the university is not legally allowed to share information about other students, but added that laws haven’t been updated and can use a change. “We are going to do every single thing that we can to ensure that this hate does not come back into our community,” Munin said.

Many other student organization leaders spoke at the forum, along with the newly elected mayor of Oshkosh, Lori Palmeri, and the outgoing Associate Vice Chancellor Dr. Sylvia Carey-Butler.

Ian McDonald, vice president of the Oshkosh Student Association, whose campaign sparked a similar forum after comments made by the same person, said: “There are a lot of things that I could say, but they’ve already been said. I can’t see through every lens that people experience. I encourage students to come to our meetings. Join the Senate.”

McDonald said posting on social media is not enough. He said change comes from “standing on a solid platform,” and the way to do that is by being involved on campus and with OSA.

After being at the University for over 20 years, UWO Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs John Koker said, “I respectfully push back against the claims that nothing has been done.” However, Koker said there is much room to grow.

Two Hmong students spoke at the end of the forum and asked why “Americans hate us?” The students said Hmongs did not want to be here and that Hmongs were forced to be here by the American military. “Our families were killed and destroyed, and people don’t even know about it. People don’t understand why we are here. We were used by the American military and we were brought here and now have to face racism,” the students said.

It took an hour for Jewish and Muslim people to be mentioned.

Leavitt closed the forum just after 2 p.m. and called the afternoon assembly “cathartic.”