Around 1,000 UW-Eau Claire students and faculty gathered in front of Davies Center for the chance to sign a pledge and take a photo with a sign. Together they're saying, “Not on our campus, not in our community".
On Thursday, UW-Eau Claire Blugolds were donning buttons and putting pen to paper in a pledge to end racism and bigotry on their campus. Chancellor James Schmidt at UW-Eau Claire said in many ways, the campus is a reflection of society. "This isn't meant to fix things. It's meant to call attention.”
Chancellor Schmidt said a recent derogatory post on a social media site that was directed towards Hmong students was just one of many examples of prejudice that prompted the campus campaign. “Certainly, if you are part of the group that is mentioned or targeted in, either hate speech, whether anonymous or in person, it's offensive, and it re-injures. People connect it to any other injuries they've had around racial comments.”
Andrew Vue, who is a third year undergraduate at UW-Eau Claire, said he thinks discrimination and racism is as big of an issue here as it is across the country. While he appreciates that the campus is making efforts to bring discrimination to the surface, he feels there needs to be more done academically to create a better understanding among the community. He wants to see classes that teach Hmong history and culture offered on campus. "There's a certain responsibility that they need to uphold. Going forward, I really do hope they work smarter, and not harder. Because, right now, to say that they're not doing anything would be unfair, but what we need is something that we can put our foot down on and have a lot of faith in."
Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Beth Hellwig said Thursday's rally is a small step in a larger effort. "My son is gay, and he came out when he was 17-years-old,” she said. “I've seen the pain, the prejudice, the hatred, threats against him to beating him up, to kill him. To treat him in a way, that I can't even describe it.”
Vice Chancellor Hellwig said to address discrimination and racism on campus will take incremental changes for fixing of these issues.
Campus administrators said they plan to have more events, like Thursday's rally, to foster a more inclusive community. The university also has a climate survey for students and staff to take, which allows administrators to see what types of social improvements need to be addressed on campus.
If you missed the rally on campus, you can click here to sign the pledge online.