Campus officials to review social media hate incident

Bias Incident Response Team will investigate racist Yik Yak comments this week



Story by Nate Beck, News Editor

UW-Eau Claire officials are drafting a university response to two recent racist comments posted on the mobile app Yik Yak.

Eau Claire’s Bias Incident Response Team will meet later this week to investigate the anonymous comments, Jesse Dixon, Eau Claire office of multicultural affairs director and BIRT board member said.

BIRT, a committee of faculty and students, reviews campus bias and hate incidents and drafts a response. Dixon said he’s not sure if the committee will be able to identify the author because Yik Yak allows users to post comments anonymously.

“As my dad used to say, we’re kind of in the dark on this one,” he said.

This year, BIRT met and responded after a student scrawled “white power” on a wall in Horan Hall and another student crossed out the prophet Muhammad on a world religions poster in a separate incident.

Yik Yak posts gain traction when users vote them up and fade when users down vote. Eau Claire, in a facebook post that garnered more than 200 likes, urged students to down vote insensitive comments.

“The UW-Eau Claire Yik Yak community has responded to the recent racial posts as we would hope they would, by recognizing the nature of the comments and down voting to get both posts removed,” according to the post.

Eau Claire students — alongside community members and Eau Claire faculty and staff — rallied May 7 to protest “microagression,” or backhanded bits of bias on campus.

Protesters expressed outrage after a student taped a note to a photo display in Hibbard Hall last spring, and a November 2012 incident, when a dorm resident hung a note with racist comments directed at Hmong students on that floor.

Joe Abhold, Eau Claire dean of students, said there’s a kind of bell-curve of multicultural knowledge here at Eau Claire. Some students get it; they’re full-bore social justice activists. Bigots lie somewhere at the bottom of that curve, and most students are in the middle: working to understand, or passive.

“In order to be successful you’re going to have to interact with people from all walks of life,” Abhold said. “That’s a core objective of a Blugold degree.”

Abhold said the university is working to respond to incidents in public. BIRT board members will lead a pledge-signing to stop bigotry and racism from 11 a.m. to noon March 19 in the Davies Center.

But Abhold said solving problems like this requires more.

“It’s certainly not the answer,” he said. “If that was the only response we wouldn’t be doing enough. The campus is working hard to increase inclusivity.”