A UW-Madison student who shoved and spit on other students during a dispute in a dorm over the weekend will not face criminal charges for the incident, which helped energize conversations about the campus’ racial climate.
UW-Madison police concluded the incident early Saturday morning was prompted by a long-running dispute between 19-year-old Matthew Hsieh and the students involved, and that race was not a factor, UW-Madison police spokesman Marc Lovicott said.
An account of the incident alleged that Hsieh called a black student “all kinds of names relating to her race, her class and her gender.”
According to Lovicott, however, the student victims did not tell officers at the scene that race or gender was mentioned during the dispute. Hsieh was cited for disorderly conduct and possessing alcohol as a minor, but Lovicott said police have decided not to recommend criminal or hate crime charges against him.
The department on Wednesday afternoon released footage from an officer’s body camera of interviews with Hsieh and the students he pushed soon after the incident happened.
On the video, one student tells police Hsieh said the group was “poor and here on scholarship,” and another alleges he said something similar, but none explicitly accuses Hsieh of making derogatory comments about race.
“There was no indication that race was ever brought up — ever — in the conversation,” Lovicott said.
A UW-Madison spokeswoman said a university investigation into the incident, which could result in campus discipline, is in progress.
The dispute at Sellery Hall, along with racially charged incidents that have come to light this semester at UW-Madison, have prompted students of color to share their experiences with discrimination and call for greater university action on the matter. Chancellor Rebecca Blank said Tuesday night that the university will take several steps, such as starting a cultural competency program for all new students next fall, to prevent similar incidents in the future.
As conversations about racism continued Wednesday, Lovicott said the department has opened an investigation into racist graffiti that was found in a campus building.
A photo of the graffiti, which was found Monday in a bathroom at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, showed a drawing of a person being hanged from a tree and included a racial slur.
Lovicott said police have not been able to identify who wrote the graffiti. Authorities believe the incident happened sometime Monday afternoon or early evening, and asked anyone with information to contact them, Lovicott said.