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Black Leadership Council Urges UW to Readmit Cephus

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Former Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Quintez Cephus signs autographs at a press conference last week Monday. (Photo by Nick Garton)

Some of Madison’s most prominent Black leaders urged University of Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank to readmit Quintez Cephus to the university after the former football player was acquitted of sexual assault charges.

Cephus was arrested and charged with two counts of sexual assault in August 2018 in connection with an incident with two women that took place in April 2018. A jury deliberated less than 45 minutes before finding him not guilty of both charges.

In a letter obtained by Madison365, the Black Leadership Council wrote, “We recognize that the university often takes what it deems precautionary measures to ensure the safety of individuals and students as a group. However, once Mr. Cephus was cleared of all charges and had NO record of previous misconduct, it seems the university may be considering exacting additional punishment for something he did not do. In essence, Mr. Cephus may experience a kind of double jeopardy despite the jury verdict.”

The letter is signed by:

Rev. Dr. Marcus Allen, Pastor, Mt. Zion Baptist Church; Ruben Anthony, PhD CEO and President Urban League of Greater Madison;Kaleem Caire, CEO, One City Early Learning Center; Carola Gaines, Madison Alumnae Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc; Rev. Dr. Alexander Gee, Pastor, Fountain of Life Covenant Church and President, Nehemiah Corporation and Justified Anger Coalition; Greg Jones, President, NAACP Dane County; Richard L. Jones, Esq, Gamma Gamma Gamma Chapter, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc; Gloria Ladson-Billings, Kappa Psi Omega Chapter, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc; and Theresa S. Sanders, Kappa Psi Omega Chapter, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

The letter points out the perception of a racial bias in the Chancellor’s decision to expel Cephus and then to delay his reinstatement.

“Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident of the university’s relationship with Black students. As a campus that is ranked 13th out of the 14 Big Ten institutions on diversity (only University of Nebraska-Lincoln fares worse), Wisconsin has a LONG way to go on improving campus relationships with the Black community,” specifically citing the cases of Denzel McDonald, who was arrested in a classroom during class, and a white man spitting on a Black woman and telling her she didn’t belong at UW but still being allowed to have his identity protected.

“The University of Wisconsin-Madison had 593 African American undergraduates and 225 African American graduate students in the 2018-2019 academic year. That is 818 African American students on a campus of 44,411,” the letter says. “This incredible racial asymmetry means African American students are hyper-visible on the campus. Almost every African American student can report at least one incident of racial violence—racial epithets, harassments, and threats. Learning that even a legal exoneration will not provide one with a second chance does little to engender the idea that the university has a racially welcoming climate.”

The letter acknowledges that it’s up to the Big Ten Conference and NCAA to reinstate Cephus’s eligibility to compete on the football team, but notes he can’t even appeal to those bodies until he’s back in school.

UW Head Football Coach Paul Chryst has said he would welcome Cephus back to the team and several of his former teammates appeared at a press conference in support of his reinstatement earlier this week.

In a statement issued Monday, the University said it had not yet made a decision on whether to admit Cephus or not, but that it was still conducting a “complete and thorough review” of Cephus’s petition for readmission.

Read the full letter from the Black Leadership Council here.