Contributor: Ashley M. Ruiz PhD, RN
Higher education institutions fail BIPOC students.
If we [Nurses] think trauma science is true, then the University of Wisconsin-Madison has a problem. Audrey Godlewski and her hilarious friends are one example of this problem. Rather than address the problem, UW structures like the Black Cultural Center hand out coupons for ice cream to sweep away the problem (Escott & Goldhaber, 2023).
If you are not familiar with the situation, Audrey Godlewski’s friends posted a video on TikTok showing her saying, “every f–ing little N-word who f–ing did me wrong” and force them to “pick f–ing cotton” until their bodies “dry out because of how much cotton they’re picking for me”.
In response, students at UW-Madison are calling for the student to be expelled. In response, the University released this statement: “While the university can’t limit what students and employees post to their personal social media accounts and can’t take action against posts that are not unlawful, racist slurs do not represent or reflect UW–Madison values around creating an inclusive community,” (University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2023).
The student captured in this video works as a CNA and has been pursuing a career in healthcare. UW-Madison School of Nursing determined the student was not enrolled in one of their Nursing programs. Therefore, school administrators are washing their hands of the situation by declaring no affiliation.
As a Nurse Scientist that studies re-traumatization caused by nurses responding to racialized and gendered experiences of violence, this is yet another example of nurses’ complacency in failing to address racialized trauma. Where are nurse leaders at the local, state, and national level in responding to this situation? Do we as a profession agree and find it acceptable to have someone that has caused detrimental harm to BIPOC Badgers (and BIPOC folks broadly) to be capable of providing basic nursing skills to those we serve safely? How does this represent our current and future workforce? What does this say about our “commitments” to meeting the health needs of those we serve? How does this impact efforts of building trusting relationships with communities with a historical and ongoing record of being mistreated within healthcare and academic institutions?
To be clear, Audrey Godlewski and her friends viral hate video are not just a single isolated event. Audrey Godlewski, and her friends, reflects the pervasive culture of hate that is taught to be acceptable in the social environment. Racialized environments in academia and educational institutions are not only created, but they are sustained (Shahram, 2023). This is recognized in one report released by the National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing (2022), which focuses on the impact of racism across the nursing profession including academia and education.
Despite this recognition, Madison-educated nurses claim a prestigious commitment to excellence while washing their hands of systemic and interpersonal racism in their backyard. How can they do both?
I say to anti-racist Madisonian scholars, specifically in Nursing, “Where are you?”. Your silence is violence. If you’re going to be using “anti-racist” frameworks to further your own professional trajectory as a White or White-passing nurse, why have you not taken action?
Throughout my trajectory in nursing, a trajectory that started in Madison, I have watched other Audrey Godlewski’s next to me excel in this profession. Not because they were innately “meant” to be a nurse, but because the social structures starting with nursing education are designed to support White nurses.
So where can we go from here? We can start by revoking Audrey Godlewski’s CNA license. We can start by developing specific guidelines requiring nurses to demonstrate their ability to be anti-racist. Join us this Saturday, May 20th at Reckoning with Racism in Nursing to discuss next steps.
Escott, G. & Goldhaber, N. (2023). ‘We f-ed up’: ASM apologizes as Students Blast UW-Madison Leaders for Racist Video Response. Retrieved from https://www.dailycardinal.com/article/2023/05/we- fed-up-asm-apologizes-as-students-blast-uw-madison-leaders-for-racist-video-response
National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing. (2022). Retrieved from https://www.nursingworld.org/~49c4d0/globalassets/practiceandpolicy/workforce/commission -to-address-racism/racism-in-nursing-report-series.pdf
Shahram S. Z. (2023). Five ways ‘health scholars’ are complicit in upholding health inequities, and how to stop. International journal for equity in health, 22(1), 15. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12939-022- 01763-9
University of Wisconsin—Madison. (2023). UW-Madison responds to social media video. Retrieved from https://news.wisc.edu/uw-madison-responds-to-social-media-video/
About Ashley Ruiz
I am currently a Presidential Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Arizona State University. I earned my PhD in Nursing, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. The research I am focusing on examines the healthcare response to Black and Indigenous women’s experiences of sexual assault. Specifically, the research I am continuing examines interactions in healthcare that cause secondary victimization (re-traumatization) to survivors of sexual assault.
See also my blog post on Nursology.net from October 2022, title “A Pinay’s Reflection“.