UW-Madison grad student accused of intentional deceit in racefaking scandal.

Author: Cailyn Schiltz

There is a long history of racial ambiguity from UW-Madison doctoral student, CV Vitolo-Haddad, according to their former colleagues. Said colleagues think that the misrepresentation from Vitolo-Haddad was intentional and possibly linked to their relations with far-right extremist groups. 

Vitolo-Haddad uses they/them pronouns and was a doctoral student at UW-Madison studying Rhetoric in the Department of Communication Arts. In January of 2019, three years after arriving in Madison, Vitolo-Haddad switched into the School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s PhD program. 

The story originally broke in a Medium article from an anonymous “affiliate of the university” who noticed inconsistencies in Vitolo-Haddad’s racial identity over time. There is no evidence of any Hispanic or African roots in Vitolo-Haddad’s family history, according to this family tree and Vitolo-Haddad’s own apologies

The anonymous affiliate found these photos on Vitolo-Haddad’s facebook, from when they identified and lived as a white person. 

However, Vitolo-Haddad’s social media presence and statements imply and directly state that they are Latinx. They used Spanish captions and posted hashtags and memes about Latinx culture, according to the anonymous affiliate and A Third Step, a master document of Vitolo-Haddad’s racial misrepresentations, relationships with far-right extremists and other ethical concerns by their former colleagues. 

A Third Step (name in reference to Vitolo-Haddad’s apology posts, entitled A First Step and A Second Step) also points out Vito-Haddad assuming blackness by referring to themself as a “lightskin”, sitting on multiple panels exclusively for black and brown experts and explicitly referring to themself as a person of color in multiple professional settings.

According to the anonymous affiliate, Vitolo-Haddad had no problem representing and calling themself a person of color, but would always dodge questions of specificity, “even when asked in good faith by people seeking community with them.” 

The anonymous affiliate contrasts Vitolo-Haddad’s older, “whiter” Facebook posts with more current ones that darken their skin tone and garner comparisons to actors of color such as Zendaya and Indya Moore.  

Vitolo-Haddad attributes these misrepresentations to familial stories that they recently found out were untrue. “I went along with however people saw me,” stated Vitolo-Haddad in A Second Step. “I over-identified with unreliable and unproven family history and latched onto anything I remembered growing up.”

One of Vitolo-Haddad’s former colleagues claims that they explicitly identified as white and Italian during their undergraduate years at the University of Central Florida, and only started posing as a person of color once they started coaching debate after receiving a Master’s degree at Wake Forest University. 

The anonymous affiliate counters this with the fact that according to public obituaries, all four of Vitolo-Haddad’s grandparents are white Italians, not the victims of an “anticolonial struggle” like Vitolo-Haddad represented them through social media posts. 

Vitolo-Haddad claims the racial misrepresentations were unintentional, but still recognizes the harm they did.

“I acknowledge that most of the trust I destroyed cannot be rebuilt,” Vitolo-Haddad wrote in A Second Step. “I want to provide redress that is appropriate for each individual I’ve harmed, not a blanket resolution.”

A Third Step links Vitolo-Haddad’s racefaking to her close relationship with far-right extremist groups and claims that “the engagement with the far-right goes far beyond scholarly and into kinship/friendship territory.”

Their former colleagues from the Student Coalition for Progress described how Vitolo-Haddad would “hijack” protests and counter-protests where both SCP and white supremacists were present and turn it into a debate. Former SCP members felt uncomfortable with this; they did not want to give the white supremacists more of a platform than they already had.

Vitolo-Haddad’s research revolved around facist, white-supremacist groups like the Proud Boys and often indirectly promoted their ideologies. Their interactions with leaders of white supremacist groups took a friendly tone, according to A Third Step and screenshots from Vitolo-Haddad’s article. Vitolo-Haddad also thanked and dedicated a paper to the Proud Boys in their paper for Rhetoric Society Quarterly, according to A Third Step. 

The final allegation A Third Step makes against Vitolo-Haddad is that they grossly misused their power and spread misinformation within the Teaching Assistant’s Association and other community organizations. 

According to A Third Step, Vitolo-Haddad responded to an SCP member coming out as bisexual with “it’s not a big deal, everyone in Madison is bi.” 

They also used their admin access on the SCP Facebook page to reach out to and engage with white supremacists. 

Vitolo-Haddad also told two members of the Degenderettes, a queer/trans activist collective, that they were “not brown enough” during a disagreement.

They led a discussion section for Communication Arts 260 in the fall of 2018 and students reflect on Vitolo-Haddad using a lot of class time to talk about their own research on facist groups, which was not a part of the curriculum or syllabus. Vitolo-Haddad went as far as to assign their own Medium article as a reading during an in-class activity. 

Vitolo-Haddad also claimed multiple times that they were romantically involved with a black woman, but there was no evidence. Nobody had ever met or seen photos of Vitolo-Haddad’s alleged partner. 

They also heavily self-tanned to maintain an ethnically ambiguous skin tone, according to A Third Step

The anonymous affiliate attached more Facebook posts from Vitolo-Haddad that insinuate that they are not white. 

The evidence from the anonymous affiliate and A Third Step paint a very different picture than Vitolo-Haddad’s justifications and apologies in A First Step and A Second Step

Vitolo-Haddad has stepped down from all positions of power in Madison and says they are committed to rectifying the harm they did. 

This is a developing story as more evidence against Vitolo-Haddad emerges.