Division of Student Affairs to take action against microaggression


Photo by Submitted

Story by Lauren French, Copy Editor

The Ho-Chunk Room on the third floor of  Davies overflowed Monday with students, faculty and staff primed to hear students from the Black Student Association talk about an intimate topic: interracial dating.

By the end of the panel, one thing was clear. Microaggression did not end with last spring’s We, Too, Are UWEC protest.

Collis McCloud, sophomore and BSA member at the Interracial Dating Panel, described an experience he and his friends encountered with a girl they just met.

“She asked us: ‘have we ever killed anybody?’ What do you mean have I ever killed anybody… she didn’t even know my name before she asked me that,” McCloud said.

A microaggression is any verbal or nonverbal slight that communicates a message of bias to a target person.

Out of 10,000 undergraduate students at UW-Eau Claire, only 11 percent are ethnic minorities.  On a campus that hosts predominantly white students, microaggressions, whether intended or not, can casually fly under the radar.

We, Too, Are UWEC demonstrated that microaggressions cannot continue to go unaddressed.

Jodi Thesing-Ritter, Associate Dean of Students, said the Division of Student Affairs is taking a five-pronged approach to confront microaggression and focus on equity and inclusion.

The first installment is redefining Thesing-Ritter’s job description. She moved into the Blugold Beginnings and Office of Multicultural Affairs Suite in Centennial Hall, and now specifically focuses on equity and inclusion.

She said it’s important that this position is tasked with implementing a strategic approach to equity and inclusion for the Division of Student Affairs.

The second prong in the effort to eliminate bias is a division-wide scan of inclusive excellence.  Thescan includes 17 categories geared towards ensuring a staff that demonstrates a commitment to equity and inclusion in all facets of the Division.

In addition to the diversity scan, the Division of Student Affairs will provide training to its entire staff on how to identify and eliminate microaggressions.

The Division’s inward approach to combating bias turns outward with the Civil Rights Pilgrimage and the film series “Macrochats on Microaggressions.“

The Civil Rights Pilgrimage, which takes place every winter and spring breaks, takes students to the south and exposes them to the history of the Civil Rights Movement.

Teresa O’Halloran, assistant to the Chancellor for Affirmative Action, said an active way to fight microaggression is simply to talk about it.

“The university needs more talk rather than less talk,” O’Halloran said.

“Macrochats on Microaggressions” is a film series meant to inform Eau Claire students and facilitate discussion among all ethnic groups.

The film series began last week with “Dear White People,” and will continue March 16 in the Woodland Theater.

Maya Witte, senior global leadership and advocacy studies major and one of the We, Too, Are UWEC organizers, stressed that discussion is key.

“Talking about it makes people more aware of what they’re doing,” Witte said.

Thesing-Ritter said all Division of Student Affairs efforts are important to eliminate microaggression, noting that we need to make individual and institutional change.

“Macrochats is just one piece of a larger puzzle,” Thesing-Ritter said.  “We need to make a systemic change.”