UW finally caves to liberal students' diversity demands
- Students insist that racism at UW-Madison is systemic.
- A group of students known as "BlackOut" disrupted the Board of Regents' meetings three times before getting the results it sought.
University of Wisconsin-Madison leaders have finally caved to the demands of student protesters only days after ‘BlackOut’ disrupted a Board of Regents meeting for the third time.
The call for the university to act on the group’s demands grew over the weekend after UW student Karie Le posted on Facebook that a white, middle aged man spit on her and told her to “go back to China,” while she was walking on campus.
Following this alleged instance of racism, enraged students began telling their own stories of racism and bias with the hashtag #TheRealUW.
“#TheRealUW is where I even at 155 pounds get mistaken for an athlete implying my only place here is for my athletic ability,” Kenneth Cole, co-leader of BlackOut, posted on Twitter.
“Never knew what feeling unsafe felt like in an ENTIRE city until I came to the university of madison-wisconsin, [sic]” a student wrote.
“I was walking to work by myself one night and a group of white guys in a car yelled, ‘Hey BLACKIE! Black girl,’” claimed another student.
After the hashtag took off last weekend, UW-Madison Chancellor, Rebecca Blank, wrote an open letter on Tuesday announcing new initiatives that will address the “troubling” hate and bias on campus.
“Responding to each incident is important, but the harder work is addressing campus climate systematically. This is work we all need to do, together,” Blank said.
As part of the new initiatives, Blank said the university will hire more student support counselors, increase mental health providers, as well as immediately hire two counselors committed to helping students who have diversity issues.
“It is very clear that we still have much work to do in our community,” Blank said. “I am committed to increasing the urgency with which we approach issues of campus climate.”
Le told The Badger Herald that she isn’t impressed by Blank’s and the university’s efforts.
“It’s a lot of empty words; there are discussions and events, but it’s mainly multicultural students showing up. This needs to be a campus-wide effort,” Le said.
Markus Brauer, professor of psychology at UW-Madison, told The Badger Herald that one of the reasons for the increased racism on campus could be the presidential primaries.
“The primaries are a setback because suddenly it’s become socially acceptable to say bigoted things and get people to vote for you,” Brauer explained.
Yet Brauer, an expert on discrimination, isn’t convinced that raising awareness of racial prejudice is the best idea, as it could increase racism.
“If I go and tell people, ‘Everyone is littering and it’s a problem,’ this will actually increase littering. But if I go out and say, ‘Oh my God, no one is getting mammograms,’ this will actually decrease the number of people getting mammograms,” Brauer said.
Brauer also said that studies have found when a population believes a behavior to be widespread then the behavior’s prevalence increases.
Kenneth Cole, co-leader of the BlackOut movement, told the Wisconsin State Journal that the new initiatives are positive steps, but he will continue to push for a black student center and the end of standardized testing.
“Even though the action is urgent and very necessary, it is not the end. This is actually just the beginning of some things that will be necessary to make our university a more diverse and inclusive place,” Cole said.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @brianledtke