Friday afternoon, UW Oshkosh Administration, faculty, students, Oshkosh community members, and Oshkosh Mayor Lori Palmeri filled the university’s Reeve Union ballroom for an open forum hosted by UW-O Chancellor Andrew Leavitt in response to images posted to social media Thursday night.
A set of three photos, which surfaced overnight on Twitter and later spread to other social media platforms, depict a whiteboard with the message “No Liberals, Jews, Muslims, Queers, or Hmongs” written on it. A second image shows a room with a large banner containing a hand-painted white swastika.
A Twitter user identified as Allison Keegstra posted the photos Thursday night. She says she went to the home of Haakon Wagner and Kody Last to “expose the (expletive) out of these degenerates.”
It is unclear whether anyone else lives there, and whether anyone who lives there wrote on the whiteboard.
It also remains unclear in what context the photos were taken. UW-Oshkosh officials have confirmed that some UW-Oshkosh students are in the photos, but declined to identify them, saying the matter continues to be under investigation by campus police and the Dean of Students’ office.
“If laws or policy are determined to be broken, obviously then there could be some sort of action taken,” said UW-Oshkosh Communications Director Mandy Potts in an interview Friday.
The forum Friday afternoon drew “hundreds and hundreds” of people, Potts said. It began with an invitation from Chancellor Andrew Leavitt, which was also the opening line of his written statement published earlier Friday: “To anyone who brings hate into the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh community, I invite you to leave.”
The audience erupted in applause.
Art Munin, Acting Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, added, “We take these incidents extremely seriously, find them absolutely abhorrent and counter to the values of the community that we want to develop here as Titans.” Munin said that the incident is being taken seriously and that campus administration will continue the follow-up process.
Dr. Syliva Carey-Butler, Vice Chancellor of Academic Support and Inclusive Excellence, read a statement available on her website. “We’re old heads. This is your future,” she said. “You have to decide what kind of world you want to be a part of. You have to call your friends out … No amount of praying. No amount of conversation. No amount of reading is going to change it if you don’t take action.”
Student leaders at the event representing the Latino, the Intertribal Student, the LGBTQ+, and the Black Student Union organizations asked for more administrative and personal accountability. Several students expressed concern for their personal safety, stating that the university isn’t doing enough to protect marginalized students.
At the end of the student comments, student Alicia Obermeier called Haakon Wagner, one of the residents at the house where the photos were taken, by name to emphasize that Wagner continues to navigate in relative safety while students like herself are being targeted.
The Oshkosh Northwestern reported that Wagner said on Twitter that he had nothing to do with what was written on the whiteboard. Wagner’s Twitter account appears to have been deleted by Saturday afternoon.
Obermier and her Hmong-American student body running mates were targets of a previous homophobic and racial student election when a Snapchat image surfaced of two white men running for student president and vice president that encouraged students to vote for them. Underneath, a student had tacked on an endorsement: “UWO Vote for these guys today unless you want a lesbian or a Hmong to win.”
UW Oshkosh asks anyone with information about the case to please file a bias incident report or to contact the Dean of Students Office, student affairs or UW Oshkosh Police.