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UW-Madison leaders, students condemn chalk messages blaming China for coronavirus

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Buy Photo UW-Madison has seen an uptick in racist behavior against people of East Asian descent since the coronavirus began to spread. (Photo: Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

MADISON - The University of Wisconsin-Madison says the university is responding to an uptick in racism against Asian and Asian-Americans on campus as the coronavirus spreads.

In one of the latest such incidents, racist chalk messages were written on a campus sidewalk. The Asian American Studies Program posted photos of the messages on its Facebook page Wednesday, saying they were found the day before.

"IT'S FROM CHINA #CHINESEVIRUS," one of the messages reads.

"(Expletive) THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT," a second message said.

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A statement from university leaders Wednesday announced the campus would host a virtual town hall later this week to discuss the climate on campus.

The statement did not specifically note the chalk messages but denounced racist behavior and stereotyping overall and noted a general increase in behavior targeting people perceived to be of East and South Asian descent.

"We are aware of an increase in bias incidents on or near campus and online that have targeted our Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi-American students and employees, particularly those from or perceived to be from China and East Asia," the statement said.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Reesor and Deputy Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion Patrick Sims signed the statement.

On Twitter, Sims doubled-down on condemning the behavior, saying the university stands with its students and noting the coronavirus is not tied to any country, race or group of people.

"#UWMadison is remarkable because of the talent, creativity and dedication our diverse community members bring to it," Sims said. "We are committed to upholding our values and making sure that our community members are connected, protected and respected during this challenging time."

Contact Devi Shastri at 414-224-2193 or DAShastri@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @DeviShastri.

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