NEW INFORMATION: Confederate flag on truck at UWL campus stirs debate

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) -- A Confederate flag seen at UW-La Crosse has sparked larger conversations about free speech and racism on campus.

Students at UW-La Crosse raised concerns last Friday after seeing the image of a Confederate flag on the front of a truck at a construction site on campus.

University administrators asked the truck driver to take it off, and he did, but when students continued to discuss ongoing issues of racism on campus and in the community, the administration organized an open forum that took place Friday to discuss racism and the history of the Confederate flag.

But some students say that these issues have been going on for a long time.

"We experience discrimination and marginalization and we feel like that's being ignored by administration and faculty," said Kalon Bell, UW-La Crosse senior and President of Black Student Unity.

"I really think that the administration has been using this whole confederate flag issue as kind of, not a cover up, but it's a false flag," said Zach Allen, a UW-La Crosse senior. "It's something to, you know, 'Oh, we're taking care of this, don't worry, we're keeping you safe,' as opposed to getting to the underlying issue of, 'I understand the pain that you're feeling but I'm not doing anything about it.'"

The Hate Response Team at UW-La Crosse has received 84 reports of hate and bias incidents this school year.

They say that's about one a day and that's more than they had received at this time last year.

"There's a story behind each of those numbers and those stories matter, so it's really important for us to be hearing them and validating them and trying to see what we can do collectively to support these people," said Amanda Goodenough, Assistant Director of the Research and Resource Center for Campus Climate at UW-La Crosse.

The university says they will continue to work toward a safer campus for all.

"We need to be part of the solution," said Paula Knudson, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. "And certainly that's I think our goal here at UW-L is to be safe, inclusive, to have the discourse, to allow people's different opinions, and to figure out how we move forward together."

Chancellor Joe Gow also sent an email to the student body Wednesday, emphasizing his commitment to making campus free of hate. He says he is working with students and staff to explore ideas to improve the campus climate.

LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) -- The image of a Confederate flag displayed on a semitrailer on University of Wisconsin-La Crosse's grounds has stirred up a debate on campus.

The symbol was reportedly on the grille of the semitrailer parked on the student center construction site. Paula Knudson, vice chancellor for student affairs, got complaints about the flag by phone and official "hate and bias" reports.

Knudson emailed students last week saying the flag's image had been removed, and apologized for "fear and angst" caused. Senior Zachary Allen, who says he doesn't support the flag, began organizing a demonstration supporting freedom of speech after he says it sounded like it had been forcibly removed.

In a follow-up email Tuesday, Knudson clarified the university had asked for the flag's removal.

A discussion on the issue is scheduled on campus Friday.

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