University, 'Waking Up White Collaborative' host 'White Privilege Symposium'

Viterbo University has partnered with a group focuses on on 'facilitat[ing] White Racial Literacy' to host a 'White Privilege Symposium' this semester.

The symposium will focus on eliminating 'race-based privilege' and creating more 'equitable' communities.

Viterbo University is partnering with Waking up White Collaborative to host a “White Privilege Symposium” later this semester. 

The collaborative  is named after Debby Irving’s book, Waking Up White, which discusses her understanding of white privilege and how she has benefitted because she’s white

Irving will be one of the keynote speakers at the White Privilege Symposium where attendees will be asked “What does it mean to be White?” and learning that “there is a white racial viewpoint that is narrow & limited and that others do not share.” 

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The Collaborative includes a line from Robin DiAngelo, author of White Fragility, in its statement of purpose. It states that the project’s “intent is to facilitate White Racial Literacy,” and “Ignorance of Whiteness is not neutral or benign.” 

This symposium will take place December 3 and 4 at the La Crosse, Wisconsin, school as part of the university’s “Identities Project,” which is sponsored the division of student affairs in collaboration with the Social Justice and Equity Committee and the Breaking Barriers Diversity Club. 

The committee comprises the school’s faculty, administrators and employees. 

Viterbo hosts a “social justice and equity” clause on its website defines social justice as “providing equitable systems and structures to support employees and students,” and equity as “implementing systems and structures” that will “eliminate barriers to meet diverse needs.”

The university began incorporating diversity metrics in marketing materials this year, which show that 86% of students are white, 3.59% are hispanic or latino and 3.28% are Black. 

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Viterbo University, however, is not without controversy around social justice issues. 

On April 18, Victoria Unanka who was arrested for starting a fire in a residence hall on campus and subsequently lying about it possibly being a hate crime, the La Crosse Tribune reports. 

After her arrest Unanka was released on a signature bond and it was confirmed that she returned home and was no longer on campus. In March she spoke at the on-campus Black Lives Matter rally.