Supporting Individuals Impacted By Bias During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Dear UW–Madison Students, Faculty, and Staff,

The past months have been incredibly challenging. The COVID-19 pandemic has created ruptures within communities—through the need to physically distance, the death of loved ones, and a rise in xenophobic and discriminatory incidents during this time. Regretfully, UW–Madison and the surrounding community have not been insulated from such occurrences, as incidents of bias against Asians and Asian Americans have been reported in our community as well. In addition, incidents of bias are targeting other groups, attempting to place blame for the pandemic. These attacks come at a time when communities of color and underrepresented groups have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 due to underlying health, social, and economic disparities.

The International Division—along with campus leadership, friends, and partners across campus and in the community—is greatly concerned by the lack of respect and basic decency that should be afforded to all. As noted in Chancellor Blank’s message to the campus community on March 26, university leaders condemned such actions and reaffirmed that racist behaviors and stereotyping of any kind are not tolerated at the university.

For international students, these challenges are then often greatly amplified by distance and other sacrifices they have already made to pursue their studies. Many are concerned for the health and well-being of family members and friends, anxious over the uncertainty of the future, and troubled over how the social and political landscape will change the perception of their presence on campus.

The International Division wants all of our international students, faculty, and staff, to know that:

  • You are welcome here. Our campus thrives and prospers due to the richness of the perspectives and insights that emerge through a diverse, global community.
  • You are not alone. We share the range of mixed emotions you may be experiencing—sadness, fear, concern, and outrage, as well as determination and resilience.
  • There is no excuse for any hostile, hateful, or discriminatory treatment.

There are several resources available, should you need them. If you are a student who has experienced harassment or discrimination, please file a bias incident report. The Dean of Students Office responds to every bias incident report received. Employees can file a complaint with the Office of Compliance.

Several of the university’s free mental health resources are available online, including SilverCloud for anxiety and stress management; Healthy Minds for resilience and mindfulness training; and LifeMatters for employees seeking assistance with life, work, family and well-being.

I also encourage colleagues throughout the division and across campus to act as allies for those who might be experiencing incidents of bias by offering our personal support. It is also important for each and every one of us to speak out when we encounter incidents of bias and microaggressions. There are resources available to build skills that are helpful in responding when someone uses biased language or stereotypes. Only by advocating against discriminatory behavior can we create a respectful and welcoming atmosphere for all.

I hope you all stay healthy and happy. I look forward to when we can all gather again, in person, and celebrate our shared connections as well as that which makes each of us unique.


Guido Podestá

Vice Provost and Dean