Whitewater and La Crosse involved in latest debate of free speech vs. hate speech.
BY SHAWN ALLEN
Race relations within the UW system have been an important topic of discussion as of late. From the Board of Regents passing a resolution preserving the right of free speech, that many see as opportunity to open up room for hate speech, and now separate incidents on two UW campuses.
A snapchat post featured two white students from UW-Whitewater with what they claim to be a facial cleanser, but what others believe to be blackface.
Another event happened on the campus of UW-La Crosse; a racist drawing of a black man hanging from a tree with KKK members dancing underneath, a swastika, and the hashtag, #BlackLivesDontMatter were all found on the same wipeboard.
Black Student Unions give opinions
President of UW-Parkside’s BSU Andre Holland said that he believes that the picture was disgusting. Janay Alston, A member of Whitewater’s BSU, said that she will put all her power into eliminating racism throughout campus and that they’re pushing others to help.
Chancellors attempt damage control
UW-Whitewater’s chancellor, Beverly Kopper, promptly issued a statement, saying the picture posted was hurtful and destructive to the campus community.
An event was held, Pizzas with the chancellor, approximately 80 students, including several members of the Whitewater BSU, shared their experiences on campus including racial slurs and microaggressions according to the chancellor’s letter.
She says that the issues are serious and must be addressed. She closes with a promise that they are taking steps in the right direction.
UW-La Crosse chancellor, Joe Gow, responded by sending out a copy of the picture via campuswide email, stating that the amount of hate speech reported on campus was unusually high for the year.
Gow has been quoted by WEAU as saying “the experience of people of color is different and they’re subject to some pretty nasty things,” said Gow. “And we have to be sensitive to that and we have to ask people not to do that and try to understand why that’s happening and what we can do to prevent it.”
OMSA Director/Assistant Dean of Students gives input
Damian Evans said that any and all hate crimes are disturbing to him, but context is also important when looking at a story. “Obviously, any type of Hate Crime or language is very disturbing to me. In addition, being a part of UW System makes it a little more agonizing because higher education is about learning and there are multiple ways to engage in the conversation and learn…In the event it wasn’t black face and taken out of context that is unfortunate because it paints the picture that discrepancies in race are searched for versus something that occurs.”
When asked how he feels students and speaking up for themselves, he said that anyone with concerns should organize and be heard. He goes on to say that students have the right to make and submit any concerns or issues they may have.
Evans continued by adding that communication is key for anything to happen. “There should be a discussion with the concerned party and the party in position of power. Then there should be action. Legislation creates a control situation by perception from marginalized groups. Therefore I would conclude with conversation is the key to creating successful change. In the event one is unwilling to converse with you then you must utilize other means.”
Evans wants students to have strong stances on topics, but he also urges students to stand on those stances with facts and reason.
Tyriek Mack, a member of the leadership team, said that “regardless of the intentions of the students who took the photo, administration took appropriate steps by releasing an apology and holding a forum for its students of color.” Mack adds that they “find it disturbing that political figures ignore the experiences of the students of color; There were incidents that students of color faced, does he think we deserve an apology for those?”
Ella Sklaw, another member of the #Blackout leadership team says this is more than an isolated incident. “The fact these events have occurred on multiple UW campuses in such a small amount of time is indicative of the problems in the entire institution.” She adds that in addition to monitoring minority students’ experiences on campuses across the system, that the UW System needs to address this directly.