UW-Eau Claire rallies against campus-wide discrimination

Campus takes a stand to support students and bring community together


Photo by Anna Mateffy

Story by Katy Macek and Lauren Kritter

Joe Abhold, dean of students, said the campaign was designed to support students and stand against hate incidents based on race, sexual orientation or any other bias on campus.

“I think we have a lot of students who, when they see it or hear it, they know that it’s not right, but they’re not sure that they should do something to try and fix it,” he said.

The rally, March 19, was an effort to “mobilize the broad middle of campus,” Abhold said, adding that they want to support students, and encourage a more open atmosphere on campus.

Andrew Karsten, a member of Eau Claire’s Bias Incident Response Team — a committee of Eau Claire staff and students that investigates hate incidents — stood with demonstrators in support of the campaign.

“Other people have no right to make someone feel unsafe on their own campus,” Karsten said. “This campus is for living and learning, and that can’t be done if people feel harmed.”

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

Demetrius Evans, senior, said she thought the rally was a good way to show support for students, build alliances and raise awareness.

“I am here to not only show support for my peers, but also show support for others who have differences that I do not share,” she said.

Ozzy Lozada was another student present who has been a victim of racism and wants to see a change on campus.  He has suffered from the repercussions of racist acts and doesn’t see how an event like this will bring about the change he wants to see.

“Once you’re a victim to racism, you walk around terribly afraid,” he said. “That’s not how one should feel while at school.”

Along with Lozada, other students had doubts about the relevance of this event and what something like this can do for the community.

Sebastian Armendariz, senior, said while he thought it was a step in the right direction, he wasn’t sure what the lasting impact on the campus would be.

“The cynic and the hard-core activist in me is really thinking ‘can an issue like this be solved with a hashtag?’” he said.

Armendariz thought one of the bigger issues surrounding the rally is the lack of exposure students have to diversity and different perspectives before coming to campus, and said students need to lean cultural skills long before college.

Beth Hellwig, vice chancellor and director of student affairs, is hoping at the very least, this event helped to bring awareness to campus of how racism affects more than the ones  targeted.

“That’s why I am here today,” she said. “To take a stand for those who are silent.”

Chancellor James C. Schmidt said the event was not meant to fix anything, but rather raise awareness of past flashpoints of bias.

“This is not an opportunity for administration to scold people, this is about welcoming people to the conversation,” he said. “Each successive generation raises the bar, and we ought to continue to raise that bar until we get to that point where everyone is welcome.”