NEW INFORMATION: Interim Chancellor responds to "culturally insensitive language incident"

By: Joe Nelson Email
By: Joe Nelson Email

The following email message has been sent to University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students, faculty and staff from Interim Chancellor Gilles Bousquet regarding a recent incident in Towers residence hall:

Dear UW-Eau Claire Students, Faculty and Staff,

As some members of our campus community are already aware, an incident occurred in the days before Thanksgiving in Towers North residence hall that involved culturally insensitive language directed toward students in our Hmong living-learning community. The initial posting of this anonymous, inappropriate messaging in a bathroom stall led to the exchange of additional, increasingly insensitive written messages, also posted in the stall.

An incident like this is in direct opposition to the values of equity, diversity and inclusiveness we hold as a university. We recognize diversity as one of our highest priorities, and we strive to provide a safe and welcoming learning environment, along with a curriculum that broadens and deepens our students' educational experience. Our various living-learning communities are examples of programming intended to provide that deeper learning experience.

We have taken immediate actions since residence life and student affairs staff were notified of the Towers Hall incident, and we continue working to improve our efforts to create an increasingly inclusive university community. Immediately following the Thanksgiving break, a meeting for all residents of the Towers Hall floor where this incident occurred was organized by our residence life team. The intent of this meeting was to serve as a first step in a process to address the incident. Since then, discussions have occurred among students; our Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity Fellows; members of our Chancellor's Diversity Advisory Commission; our Office of Multicultural Affairs staff; and others.

A meeting of our Bias Incident Response Team also is scheduled for Monday to determine steps it will take going forward. In addition, students, faculty and staff are encouraged to use the university's Bias/Hate Incident Reporting Form to bring incidents to the attention of our Bias Incident Response Team.

Meanwhile, I encourage members of our university community to voice concerns openly and in ways that are not hurtful to others. Housing and Residence Life, Counseling Services, University Police, Affirmative Action, and other staff are available and trained to effectively respond to complaints or reports of inappropriate behavior.

I am disappointed by the occurrence of this disturbing incident, as well as by the feeling among some students that they are living in a hostile environment in their residence hall. This situation is a reminder that our university community is a microcosm of our greater society — with all its systemic cultural and ethnic tensions. It also is a reminder that we have important work to do to continue building among our campus community a sense of understanding and respect for all cultures.

Please know that I welcome your insights as we learn from this experience and reaffirm our commitment to preparing our students to be ethical participants in our pluralistic world.

Gilles Bousquet
Interim Chancellor, UW-Eau Claire
EAU CLAIRE, Wisc. (WEAU) - Racist signs are sending university staff into action. Several signs were found posted in the women’s' bathroom at a dorm at UW - Eau Claire.

The signs had negative comments written on them toward Hmong people.

Students, staff and those in the Hmong community said they are looking for answers and peace after four signs with racist messages were found in at the Towers dorm building.

"They had written some racist comments, which always concerns us," UWEC Associate Director of Housing and Residence Life Deb Newman said.

This is what one of the signs read:

"Problems with this floor: You have meetings for Hmong only. You take 'Hmong pictures' at wing events ... do you see us whites taking "American" pictures? No! You make your stinky food on our floor ... Yuck! You are ridiculously loud and never get yelled at. We get yelled at before quiet hours. Oh, and you don't even try to talk to us. K thanks."

Newman said the school doesn't know who's responsible, but it is taking action.

"We scheduled a floor meeting for the entire floor ... Our goal was to let them know it wasn't ok, to make sure they knew what happened, and hopefully to start some dialog. So that we can begin the communication process with students," she said.

Eau Claire Hmong Mutual Assistance Association Vice President Shoua Bauer said the signs are shocking and upsetting, but hopes the students and the community can learn from this situation.

"What I wanna see changed, is more education on cultural awareness, cultural sympathy, sensitivity, anything that can help bring the students closer together, not further apart," Bauer said.

"That person in particular (who wrote the sign) just really needs a eye-opener, to other cultures and other people around them," UWEC senior Kally Luck said.

The school said punishments could range from a written warning to expulsion, depending on the circumstances.

U.W. Eau Claire Police who said because no property was damaged by the writing and no one was threatened; it is not considered a criminal offense.

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