UW investigates 3rd incident of discrimination on campus over last month

UW investigates 3rd incident of discrimination on campus over last month

Faculty and University of Wisconsin police are looking into their third incident of discrimination on campus in the past month after a group of students were pushed and spit on in Sellery Hall.

Synovia Knox and Francisco Velazquez were walking to their dorm room in Sellery Hall with two other women when they were confronted by another resident, who they say began yelling at them and said they didn’t belong because of economic status.

“He looked in my eyes and spat, and I don’t know how you do that to a person,” said Knox, a freshman at UW.

The incident happened early Saturday morning when three women, who are all on First Wave scholarships, said the student approached them and an argument erupted. The male student, Matthew Hsieh, 19, allegedly pushed all three girls and spit on Knox.

“Then he uses his chest, not his hands to bump me up against the wall and then he just full on spat in my face,” she said.

This is the third reported incident of discrimination or bias on campus within the last month. Velazquez said they reported the incident to UW police to make sure university officials are aware of discrimination on campus. It’s an issue the group said is ongoing and needs to be addressed.

“The fact that he would escalate to pushing and spitting just makes me feel unsafe in my home,” Knox said.

“I just feel like we need to address this now because it will just keep going on if we don’t address it,” Velazquez said.

University officials said they have had an increased number of students report incidents of bias or discrimination on campus but say that doesn’t mean the actual number of cases has increased.

“I don’t think we actually have more incidents. I think we have more awareness of how to get that information out to us,” said Argyle Wade, associate dean of students with the  Division of Student Life.

The university started a campaign to increase awareness of how to report discrimination on campus through their website and mobile app. Each report is read by a team who then launches an investigation into each individual case.

Wade said they are looking at ways to prevent these acts in the future and are committed to holding students accountable.

“We don’t tolerate that type of behavior and when we hear of it, we investigate it, we take action, we hold people accountable of their behaviors,” he said

They plan to host a community conversation about ways to support the community and group of students involved. According to Wade, discipline for students can range from mandatory education classes and changing residence halls, to suspension and expulsion.

Hsieh was cited for disorderly conduct and underage drinking by UW police.

“I just want this campus to be more aware that we actually exist and we are a part of the change and can be the change but the university also has to instill the change,” Velazquez said.

UW police released body camera footage related to the case Wednesday.

The university sent a letter to Sellery Hall residents about the incident.