1 February 2012, marked the beginning of Black Heritage Month at UW-Parkside; festivities for the month-long celebration took place at noon in Main Place. Wednesday night, however, a noose made out of rubber bands was found in a commons area in Pike River Suites. Reportedly, next to the noose was a sign that read “noose,” so people would be sure to know what the object was. A student reported the incident to the police immediately.
Yesterday morning, 2 February, a second noose was found outside of the door of the student who reported the incident, accompanied by racial slurs and threats against the student. News of the two nooses found its way throughout both campus and the surrounding Kenosha and Racine communities, as well as the entire UW-system. Students around campus sported old LGBTQ “Respect” shirts because of the events.
Throughout the day, various news facets such as Fox6 and TMJ4 interviewed students about how they felt concerning the incident. Many students stated that they did not feel safe with such violence being threatened. On the opposite end of the spectrum, some UW-Parkside students apparently did not know about the events until later Thursday afternoon.
Chancellor Ford sent out an email to the entire student body exclaiming that, “These incidents are unacceptable and intolerable. Hate cannot and will not be a part of UW-Parkside.”
Chancellor Ford also put together a campus wide meeting for 10PM in the Cinema. After students proclaimed that this was too late of a meeting, a meeting was also held at 3:30PM in the Cinema Thursday afternoon, however the notice was sent shortly before the meeting took place, with almost no time for students to receive it.
Students, staff, faculty, and members of the community poured into the Cinema at 10PM for the second meeting. The meeting opened with the Chancellor discussing the importance of difference and diversity on campus, as well as the basic respect for one another. She expressed her disappointment at the fact that these hate crimes have escalated to the level of threats. Chancellor Ford made it clear that UW-P’s police has security support from both the Kenosha Country Police Department and the UW-M campus police. Beside her, a Lt. from UW-M and the head of Parkside police stood ready for questions.
“The safety of our students comes first and always will,” said Chancellor Ford.
Currently, there are officers in the Residence Hall, apartments, Pike River Suites, and throughout the rest of the campus. Security for the Residence Hall and Pike River Suites has been heightened; an officer will be present until the end of the investigation to check residents both in and out.
“We will not tolerate any hate on campus,” said the head of Parkside Police.
Cindy Graham, interim Dean of Students, discussed with the crowd what measures UW-P has taken thus far to solve the problem, stressing the fact that taking care of the students’ security and well being is the top priority. Graham also stressed the fact that they [campus administration] are committed to finding long-term solutions to the problem.
One of the most prevalent issues of the evening was public safety. Many students expressed concern about the security around campus, stating that they did not feel safe. Coming together as a community, other students stood and took the microphone, telling the students who were afraid that they would walk them to classes and their dorms or suites. The other overwhelming issue was the hit list that had been found targeting a group of African American students at UW-P, threatening their lives. Two of the students on the hit list were present and brave enough to speak up about what was happening to them.
“I’m sad; I’m frustrated; I can’t think,” said one of them.
“I’m not afraid of you,” proclaimed the other, “I’m disappointed…I’ll sleep comfortably tonight…we cannot let them get to us.”
The victim who received the second noose was also present after being anonymous for the duration of the day, exclaiming that she would not be afraid of the perpetrator and would not allow the person/people involved to rule the way she went about her days on campus.
On top of everything else that has happened, the room was shocked to listen to a young woman who lives in the apartments discuss the fact that she was chased home after the movie in the Cinema on Wednesday night. Like many others, she expressed the need for more security on campus and mentioned how she does not feel safe in her environment.
Dr. Crystal Leiber, a professor at UW-P, expressed her discontent at the current situation; “When I found out what happened today, I was absolutely devastated…It seems like we should all be adults…I’m terrified for all of you.” Leiber opened her house to any student who does not feel safe while living at school.
Parkside Student Government (PSG) President Nelson Senda Jr. spoke and talked of the resolution PSG will be passing that states that they will not tolerate any hate or ill will on campus. The resolution should be passed this Tuesday, 7 February, at 9PM at their weekly senate meetings. As well, PSG will find a hotel for any student who does not feel safe living at school and students can call the office extension (2036) if they do not feel safe enough to walk over to get food and an officer will bring the food over to their room.
“The health, safety, and welfare of [our] students is our top priority,” Chancellor Ford repeated at the end of the meeting.
The atmosphere at the meeting was somber and scared, but also full of spirit and community. Students came together to support one another and fight against the hate currently being spread around campus. Unfortunately, it is a reality that in 2012 hate crimes such as this still occur. This is an ongoing investigation; The Ranger News will update the story with any new and all new details that come to light within the next couple of days.
Remember, the safe walk program is there to assist any student who does not feel safe walking outside of campus. They can be reached at (262) 595-2455 and are available from 7PM to 11PM on Monday through Thursday. No word has been given by administration if these hours will be extended because of recent events.