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Beloit College holds campus conversation after white pride posters found

Beloit College holds campus conversation after white pride posters found

BELOIT, Wis. - The president of Beloit College hosted a "Conversation with the President" Friday to discuss issues on campus after someone put up white supremacist posters.

 In a Facebook post, Beloit College said white supremacist posters were found around campus early Monday.

Senior Tessa Sebastian said she didn't see the posters herself, but she heard about them.

"We're an involved community," she said. "I had friends posting on Facebook about it, friends who took down posters themselves."

She said this wasn't the first time something like this has happened.

"There was actually previous written material put out by a similar alt-right group not too long ago," Sebastian said.

President Scott Bierman hosted a discussion for students, staff and faculty to address the issues Friday afternoon.

"Like every other campus in the country, the post-election has provoked lots of conversation and events on campus, and ours is no exception," he said. "There were a couple of specific events that I thought made it an opportune time to have a campuswide conversation."

Bierman said the room was packed during the discussion, and people even had to sit out in the hallways.

"I'm so encouraged by the fact that so many members of our community took time out of what for everybody is a very busy time of the year to show up and be a part of the conversation," he said.

Sophomore Jason Dormon went to the conversation hosted by the president.

"I needed to hear for myself what he had to say and where he stood and what the college was doing about these issues," Dormon said.

During the discussion, Bierman gave a presentation and discussed what had happened on campus.

"It's being investigated whether or not the postering of the campus in this way was a violation of the Hate and Bias Incident Policy on the campus. No resolution to that yet, but there's an ongoing investigation," Bierman said. "Since the posters were anonymous, and it might be a violation, we're trying to investigate who actually put up the posters."

Those who attended the conversation were glad to hear action was being taken.

"It's a bit more encouraging to know they're actually doing something about that," Dormon said.

Bierman also gave attendants the opportunity to provide feedback. He had people who went to the discussion write down responses to a few questions, which included, "From your perspective, what does it mean to aspire to be an anti-racist institution?" and "From your perspective, what does it really mean to be an inclusive campus?"

Bierman said he and others will read through all the responses and report back to the campus community.

"We all had an equal opportunity to get our voices heard because we just wrote down our questions on pieces of paper, and they're going to address those hopefully. So we'll see what happens from there," Dormon said.

Both Dormon and Sebastian said there's still more work to be done, and Sebastian said students have to be the ones carrying on the conversation.

"You have to be prepared to listen, but you also have to be prepared to talk and be honest with each other," she said. "Be frank about why certain things are not okay for a community."

Sebastian said it's good that the president started the conversation, but she wants students to talk more outside of formal meetings.

"We can have meeting like this on campus where tons of people meet and get together to talk about this issue, but how do we know if anyone who is responsible for posting the posters even came and heard what was said? There's no way to know," she said.

Bierman agrees that he can't be the one to always lead conversations like this.

"We need to distribute the conversation more broadly around campus," he said. "This can't really be just a presidential conversation."

Beloit Together is holding an event Sunday to promote solidarity in the community. The goal is to stand united against acts of hatred and violence geared toward marginalized groups. The event starts at 4 p.m. Sunday in Horace White Park.

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