Update, Thursday afternoon, 2:30 PM. UW-Whitewater officials are now contending that a photo with students in blackface had a benign meaning. See, Image spurs concerns about race at UW-Whitewater @ Channel 3000. From that story: “Kopper later said the students said they just had a facial and took a picture. She said the students did not mean for it to be harmful and did not know the implications.”
There have been campus complaints about the racial environment over more than this picture. See, WSG Discusses Campus Climate, 2.3.16, http://royalpurplenews.com/wsg-discusses-campus-climate/.
No one is likely to be satisfied with this: some will say that Kopper reacted too quickly initially, others will contend there are issues that trouble many students apart from an explanation of single photo (and the explanation, itself, is likely to surprise some).
I’ll contend that there is a need for an ongoing review of the campus culture. It’s clear that grievances, of whatever merit, do not stem from one incident.
In these matters (and with sexual assault cases), I have advocated airing and reviewing claims, rather than ignoring them. That way alone acknowledges the rights (and dignity) of individuals as claimants or in their own defense. The obligation of society is to design a full and fair process to the very height of our abilities. America is an advanced society – we are more than capable of the task.
Update, Thursday afternoon, 1:30 PM. Below you will find a copy of the UW-Whitewater announcement from this morning. One can guess that there will be a discussion about this, and perhaps a modification of the original statement. If a modification appears, I’ll add it to this post.
Earlier today, UW-Whitewater’s Chancellor, Beverly Kopper, made an announcement about recent, serious concerns from students of racial incidents on campus, excerpted below:
“Dear Campus Community,
Last night a disturbing racist post that was made to social media was brought to my attention. This post was hurtful and destructive to our campus community. While social media can certainly bring about positive change, it can also be a place that deeply hurts and harms others.
Tuesday night I held the first of what I promise will be more Pizzas with the Chancellor. Approximately 80 students attended the gathering and, frankly, they shared with me some truly upsetting stories about their experiences on campus including the use of racial slurs and microaggressions. It took courage and strength for our students to share these painful stories in public and I am deeply grateful for their bravery. Some of our multicultural and nontraditional students feel the environment on campus is not welcoming to all. Over and over, the students in attendance expressed their need to be heard and for campus to do more than just talk.
These are serious issues that must be addressed. I will have another Pizza with the Chancellor with students at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23, in the Hamilton Room of the University Center and will focus on our campus culture.
On Tuesday night, we also talked about how each of us has the responsibility to make sure every student, faculty and staff member is respected, heard and appreciated for their life experiences and their differences. We are a stronger campus, a more vibrant campus because of our diversity….
Online morning of Thursday, 2.18.16, Message from Chancellor Kopper, http://www.uww.edu/news/2016-02-chancellor-message . Original preserved in full as a screenshot.
Now I’ve been writing for a while, and I’ve seen committees and initiatives come and go, so you’ll excuse me if I mention that the only change that matters – that assures and endures – is fundamental change.
(Needless to say, this subject replaces the weekly feature normally appearing on Thursdays, a feature that will resume next week.)