UWO must budget for inclusivity

Alexus Olsen, Columnist

“Make sure you grab your pepper spray, make sure you walk around campus with a buddy and lock your doors, no matter what time of day it is.”

As a student starting school at UW-Milwaukee, these were the type of reminders I would get from my family members on a daily basis.

It comes as no surprise that when a small-town girl moves to a big city, especially one with such a high crime rate, fear would be instilled.

UWM is where I spent the first three years of my undergraduate education. The city itself attracts a drastic amount of violence, so initially I was somewhat terrified to be moving to Milwaukee right after high school.

However, UWM shattered most of that stigma by offering a unique and inclusive campus environment that had an abundance of resources for students. There were constantly diverse events happening on campus that brought not only the students together, but also the surrounding community.

Circumstance brought me to Oshkosh in 2018, and being a minority transfer student at UWO was hard. I had already seen viral posts on Facebook about hate crimes against minorities on the UWO campus. I was hoping those were isolated incidents. However, to my surprise, it is a recurring issue on campus.

During my first week of school at UWM as a freshman, the University had “Welcome Week Events,” that gave the students an array of opportunities to connect with one another.

But during my first week at UWO as a transfer student, I noticed the campus significantly lacked welcoming events that could provide opportunities to immediately expose students to minority cultures.

The recent incidents that have occurred on campus, as well as UWO’s somewhat unwelcoming environment, have made me reflect on leaving my life in Milwaukee and moving farther away from my family and friends.

The difference between UWO and UWM is that UWM excelled at using resources to create awareness to campus issues, which is something I believe all campuses should do.

There is a rise in racist acts on campuses all over the U.S. and it all starts with hate. We need to combat this hate and ensure that all students are taken into consideration. Zero-tolerance policies need to be applied in situations where students are singled out and harassed.

UWO should follow UWM’s footsteps and create inclusive resource centers so students on campus feel welcome. Change starts by slashing the stigma and cleaning up UWO’s image.

We want to attract quality students to our university, students that can feel safe and have a sense of belonging. Although my family had feared for my safety at the UWM campus, it’s the UWO campus that makes me feel unsafe.

As UWO students, we don’t want to have to carry pepper spray when we walk around campus. We don’t want to have to bring a buddy with us because we fear for our safety. We want to feel safe enough that we don’t have to lock our doors during the day. We are tired of seeing our campus on the news for racist acts.

UWO officials: Put it in our budget to increase ongoing resources for diversity and inclusion.

Put it in our budget for teachers and community leaders to make the UWO campus and the surrounding Oshkosh community a safe place for students.

Put it in our budget to make these changes, so that 10 years from now, our alma mater can be known as a safe place to be and the best choice for Wisconsin students seeking a degree.

By increasing inclusion on campus and engaging our diverse community, we can begin to change our University from one filled with hate to one filled with acceptance.