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U. Madison La Crosse College Republican Member Chalks Antisemitic Message

The student leader of the College Republicans chapter at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse resigned from her post this week after group members scrawled an antisemitic message on a campus sidewalk and promoted it on social media. 

UW-La Crosse is at least the second Wisconsin school to be hit with antisemitic messages this school year.

“This is part of a frightening, growing trend, nationally and even internationally, and to have it on our campuses is even more disturbing,” said Wisconsin Jewish Conference director Michael Blumenfeld, who was helping respond to bricks being thrown into a Racine synagogue earlier this week when he learned about the messages in La Crosse.

The incident at the western Wisconsin school began Tuesday when the College Republicans met up to “write about issues that are important to you” on campus sidewalks, student chair Megan Pauley wrote in an email to the group

One of the group’s chalk messages questioned gun control efforts, given Chicago’s crime rate. Another asked, “where’s our straight/cis night?” A third suggested the daughter of an Illinois congressman died due to “vaccine injury” despite her family recently saying the cause of death was sudden cardiac arrhythmia.

The fourth message, the one that prompted Pauley’s resignation, read “Kanye is right.” It’s an apparent reference to recent social media posts by rapper Kanye West who said he would go “death con 3” on “JEWISH PEOPLE.” 

DEFCON refers to the U.S. military defense readiness system. 

The watchdog group StopAntisemitism applauded Pauley for taking a stand against antisemitism.

Instagram removed one of West’s posts and temporarily locked his account. Twitter has also temporarily suspended him from the platform for violating its policies.

Pauley, who did not respond to an interview request, said in a statement posted to the group’s Twitter account that has since been deleted that she was “disgusted and appalled” by the chalk message supportive of West’s view. 

“(T)he Republican Party is a big tent, open to all who believe in liberty and freedom, and I will not stand by while others are ostracized,” she wrote. “Antisemitism and hate speech have no place in the College Republicans, and I hope my gesture tonight will send a message to the remaining membership that actions like these are unacceptable.” 

The College Republicans appeared to be proud of their work, posting photos on Instagram with the caption “Did some decorating on campus tonight…you know it’s successful when people are already getting rid of it.” The group has since made all of its Instagram posts private.

The UW-La Crosse College Democrats publicized the College Republicans’ chalkings on Twitter, asking “WHY? What purpose do these hateful chalkings serve but to offend others?”

The College Democrats’ photo of the Kanye message shows “Def-con III” written below “Kanye is right” in the same color chalk.

The College Republicans denied writing the Def-con line and did not respond to an email asking about the intent of the “Kanye is right” message. The group alsoretweeted the statewide College Republicans director, Billy Blathras, who said: “Complete and utter witch hunt by (UW-La Crosse College Democrats) to slander anyone who questions their agenda, and to bang the war drums in wake of the upcoming election.”

In a Thursday email to students and staff, UW-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow noted the university’s support of free speech but also condemned the message.

“(The university’s) leadership team and I are deeply disappointed to see students abandoning civil discourse and engaging in speech that promotes hate, is threatening, or that alludes to violence,” he wrote.

Anthony Chergosky, an assistant professor of political science at UW-La Crosse, serves as faculty adviser to both the College Republicans and College Democrats chapters on campus. He applauded Pauley taking a stand “in favor of inclusion.” He said the College Republican’s social media post was “completely unacceptable” and his continuing to serve as their faculty adviser is contingent on the remaining members of the group apologizing.