UW’s struggles with race continue

Bethanie Gengler, News Reporter

A UW Madison Homecoming video showing almost exclusively white students has caused an outcry launching the school into the national spotlight and prompting the creation of the Student Inclusion Coalition and a response video.

The 90-second video was posted by the UWM student Homecoming Committee leading up to the Oct. 12 Homecoming and was titled “Home is where WI are.”

The video featured white students riding around campus on bicycles, dancing and holding a UWM sign.
The student Homecoming Committee invited students from all over campus to participate in the video and spent hours filming with Alpha Kappa Alpha, a black sorority at UWM.

However, footage of minority students was excluded from the film.

The student Homecoming Committee took the video down a day after posting it following online criticism from UWM students and faculty.

UWM officials released a statement on Sept. 30 saying, “We know that, both historically and today, students of color and other under represented groups do not feel as welcome on our campus as majority students.”

In a statement shared on Facebook by the Wisconsin Alumni, the UWM student Homecoming Committee apologized for the video saying, “We regret omitting those images and we recognized that, by doing so, we unintentionally caused hurt to members of our campus community.”

On Oct. 17, anonymous UWM students posted a sign on the Science Hall reading, “UW 4 Whites Only.”
Other signs around campus said “I’m Tired of Teaching my Teachers,” “Complete Hysteria,” “UW Doesn’t Care About Black People,” “UW Doesn’t Care About Trans People” and “UW Doesn’t Care About Disabled People.”

The signs were part of a student protest demanding UWM become more inclusive. The students released a statement regarding their demonstration to The Badger Herald.

“When creating these posters, we simply wanted to defy the constant silencing and harm being done to black students, students of color and those most marginalized by this university and society,” the statement said. “UW keeps talking about what home is and how they have built a campus for students to love. Until UW makes the changes that need to be made, this campus will continue to be less welcoming for underrepresented students and students of color.”

UWM campus officials released a statement Oct. 18.

“We want to be clear that UW–Madison stands against racism and all other forms of hate and any messages of exclusion,” the statement said. “While we support the right to freedom of expression, we also have policies that prohibit the posting of unauthorized material on campus property.”
Madison officials removed the signs and a newly formed UWM Student Inclusion Coalition released a video Oct. 22 produced by Ali Khan with cinematography by Sami Imam and Joel Rondón titled “Home is where WI aren’t.”

The video features UWM minority students and has over 25,000 views on Facebook and almost 15,000 views on Twitter. It begins with a voiceover describing how UWM was built on land stolen from the Ho-Chunk.
“Your home was built on someone else’s home,” a native American student says in the video. “Small plaques cannot fathom the trauma inflicted upon the indigenous communities, specifically Ho-Chunk people, this university has wronged.”

The video shows underrepresented students holding signs and describing their experiences at UWM.
“One semester of an ethnic studies course cannot summarize our lifelong experiences as people of color,” a student said in the video.

The video outlines the challenges minority students face. The students describe being the only person of color in their classes, not having any faculty of the same ethnicity, feeling unsafe and not being provided traditional ethnic dining choices.

One student said in the video that UWM has plans to demolish the American Indian Student and Culture Center with no plans to replace it.

The students asked UWM to fund resources for minority students, provide safe spaces for underrepresented students and support retention programs for students of color across all majors.
“You tokenize us for recruitment, but ignore our contributions and yet claim to support diversity and inclusion,” the video said. “Home is where we aren’t.”

Khan, a UWM student, said in a Facebook post that he produced the video to highlight the experiences of minority students on campus and what he describes as a history of exclusion.

“These incidents exemplify the continuous erasure and exclusion of students of color on this campus,” Khan said in the post.

On Friday the UWM SIC protested on campus asking campus officials to meet five demands.

Those demands include publicly recognizing the sacrifices of past student activists of color, funding student organizations for marginalized groups, improving support systems for marginalized students on campus, restructuring the homecoming committee to engage marginalized groups and creating a coordinated response plan for acts of oppression.

Madison’s diversity issues come at a time when racist acts seem to be on the rise on UW campuses.
In 2017, racial slurs were carved into two UW Oshkosh students’ dorm room doors.

In March, images surfaced of two white male UWO student-body candidates along with the message “UWO Vote for these guys today unless you want a lesbian or a hmong to win.”

In April, UWO students posted images to social media of a banner containing a swastika and a white board that said “No Liberals, Jews, Muslims, Queers, or Hmongs” written on it.

In May, a UW-Milwaukee student carried a sign with a swastika on it and suggested “gassing the Jews” during an Israeli Independence Day event on campus according to NPR.

Last month, a UW Eau-Claire student found a note on her door that read, “Go back to the rez Red [N-word].”

These incidents highlight an increasing pattern of racist acts on college campuses according to the LEAD Fund, a nonprofit advocacy organization that released a report in February detailing its findings on uncivil, hate and bias incidents on college campuses in the U.S.

The LEAD Fund found that 77% of survey respondents said their college campus had experienced a hate or bias incident in the last two years and 68% reported that more than one incident occurred within that timeframe.

According to the survey, hate and bias incidents “may contribute directly to establish a hostile educational or working environment because of their pervasive nature. Further, if left unchecked, these incidents may lead to other serious climate problems and even violence.”

Students in the “Home is where WI aren’t” video said women of color are more likely to be assaulted than white women and are less likely to report.

“This ‘home’ isn’t safe after sunset,” they said. “This ‘home’ is destroying our community spaces.”
The students said their home isn’t their college campus, and their home isn’t Wisconsin.

“Our home is each other. Our home is our joy. Our home is our history. Our home is our resilience,” they said. “The University of Wisconsin Madison did not provide a home for us. We had to create one ourselves.”