University of Wisconsin-Parkside students, faculty and staff joined in a walk around campus to send a message of dignity and respect for all.
NAOMI DORNFELD | firstname.lastname@example.org
In the last weeks of March, members of the Dignity and Respect Task force, a student, staff and faculty led organization, began discussing how Parkside could be proactive in the campus’ mission and message of inclusion. After some discussion, the team decided to pursue a public march on site. Students were encouraged to attend and Invitations were extended to the community.
Every voice counts
Before the halls were bustling with students attending morning classes on Friday, April 20, a small group of volunteers from the Dignity and Respect Taskforce, in shirts marked “Every Voice Counts,” carried poster-board, construction paper and boxes filled with markers to Mid-Main Place. Sign-Making began at 9:00 a.m., where a dozen early-attendees got to work creating messages like “UWP: NO PLACE FOR HATE.” Some groups, such as the Black Student Union worked together, writing, “BSU Stands Against Hate.” Students, faculty and staff slowly trickled in and the room was transformed into a buzzing collective of willing participants by 10:00 a.m.
No place for hate
To kick things off, a Dignity and Respect Taskforce student leader, Krystal Slay, welcomed the crowd, expressed her appreciation for the positive turnout and gave instructions for the group to follow campus police officer Kurt Bergendahl along the route. Participants exited through the Mid-Main Place doors in file and followed the sidewalk to the Student Center Terrace. Marchers held their signs proudly and chatted casually along the path. A cluster of voices in the middle of the chain rose briefly, chanting “Parkside is great. No place for hate,” which echoed sentimentally, but fizzled after about twenty paces. Geese gawked somewhat concerned at the commotion, but upon realizing the event was more of a peace rally than an uprising, did not protest or attack.
One Step at a Time
Upon the crowd’s arrival at the Student Center Terrace, Slay greeted the collective from a podium and welcomed people to share from the mic. The intent of the event was outlined as an initiative to promote dignity and respect for all. Though not about gun violence in particular, coordinators recognized that the date of the march was the 10-year anniversary of the shootings at Columbine High School – a tragedy that compels conversation on the value of life and the importance of coming together. Many came forward to share a positive personal comment or quote from the podium. Several student leaders from organizations such as Latinos Unidos, Parkside Student Government and Black Student Union delivered messages of gratitude for those present and challenged attendees to fight for respect and dignity for all despite differing views or approaches to issues. Chancellor Debbie Ford encouraged all to be committed to making a more inclusive world. Provost Rob Ducoff presented several rhetorical, self-assessment questions aimed at identifying the terms of dignity and respect in the controversial political climate. A few students opened up about their personal experiences and confirmed the relevance of anti-hate initiatives on campus. Victor Villa, a business management transfer student, new to the scene at UW-Parkside urged the crowd to see the power of small actions and to continue to stomp out hate one step at a time.
Commemorating the event
To close the event, those involved in the day’s activity were encouraged to sign their name on the painted rock marked No Hate on the grounds. Before dismissal, the group collected for a picture to commemorate the event. The crowd slowly disassembled, making their way back to Friday afternoon routines. Some of the messages created were carried back into campus, posted in offices and in the Student Center Window which now serve as reminders to all that the community is committed to a place of inclusion, dignity and respect.