‘UW-Madison did not create a home for us’: Students behind inclusion video lead charge for change
MADISON, Wis. — A video made by a group of University of Wisconsin-Madison students has thousands of views as the students behind it push for more inclusion on campus for people of color.
The push comes a couple of weeks after the university removed a promotional homecoming video that received backlash for showing no racial minorities.
UW-Madison students live and learn on campus, but some say it can be hard to call it home.
“Like we say in the video, UW-Madison did not create a home for us,” senior Ali Khan said. “We had to create one for ourselves.”
Khan produced the Student Inclusion Coalition video posted Tuesday night.
“A lot of the statements revolved around safety and inclusion,” he said.
“UW-Madison did not create a home for us. We had to create one for ourselves.”
This group of students plans to release a list of demands for change this week. https://t.co/hFf84hB7fe
— Madalyn O’Neill (@news3madalyn) October 23, 2019
The video highlights experiences racial minority students face, such as higher assault rates for women and often being the only person of color in the classroom.
“Have you ever been in a classroom and realized how different everybody looks from you?” senior Rishard Bournes said.
Bournes, who is featured in the video, said the university wasn’t created for people of color.
“Sometimes it’s like you almost have to accept that burden,” he said. “Luckily, there are students like Ali and me trying to step up and say, ‘No, I feel like we can have a bit of this space, as well.'”
The video also touched on the lack of Halal, kosher and vegetarian food options and the planned demolition of the American Indian Studies Student & Cultural Center without a secured replacement.
“My first thoughts were, once again, students are leading the way for how the university should level up,” UW professor Angela Byars-Winston said. “I think the video highlights, in the wake of the homecoming video and the lack of diversity there, what happens when you’re an afterthought and not a forethought.”
Byars-Winston focuses on racial minorities in STEM fields.
“We have cosmetic diversity where we’re making some strides, and yet we don’t have the experience of our students and faculty and staff from under-represented backgrounds feeling like they’re part of the working infrastructure on campus,” she said.
Byars-Winston said one way to advance inclusion is to place more people from racially diverse backgrounds in faculty and staff positions so they can make policy decisions that help make students of color feel more welcome.
Khan said more students of color are also needed, as are retention programs aimed at keeping them there.
He and Bournes hope administrators listen up and make the university they love feel more like home.
“They need to notice we are important and should be included in critical decisions and in the thought process,” Bournes said.
Later this week, the Student Inclusion Coalition plans to release a list of demands for change at the university.
UW-Madison didn’t have an official response to the video Wednesday, but administrators reacted to it on social media.
I want @UWMadison to become a better place for all students — especially students of color.
Watching this new video, it’s clear that we have much more work to do.
We are all UW. https://t.co/xirgWIPqnC
— Patrick J. Sims (@PatrickSimsUW) October 23, 2019
Patrick Sims, the deputy vice chancellor for diversity and Inclusion, wrote, “I want @UWMadison to become a better place for all students – especially students of color. Watching this new video, it’s clear that we have much more work to do.”
Gave Javier, of Student Affairs, tweeted “Thank you for spending your time, talent, labor, and energy to make yourselves and communities heard. I’m committed, alongside my colleagues in @UW_StudentLife and @uw_diversity to helping @UWMadison live up to its full commitment to all our students.”
Thank you for spending your time, talent, labor, and energy to make yourselves and communities heard. I’m committed, alongside my colleagues in @UW_StudentLife and @uw_diversity to helping @UWMadison live up to its full commitment to all our students. https://t.co/RDERWnYU65
— Gabe Javier (@uwgabejavier) October 23, 2019
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Reesor wrote on Twitter, “I’m grateful to have students as partners in the vital work of making @UWMadison a place where all feel welcome. This video shares some hard truths, and I hope we can all commit to listening, learning, and taking meaningful action.”
I’m grateful to have students as partners in the vital work of making @UWMadison a place where all feel welcome. This video shares some hard truths, and I hope we can all commit to listening, learning, and taking meaningful action. #youbelonghere #wearealluw https://t.co/7poD4Re90h
— Lori Reesor (@LoriReesor) October 23, 2019
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