University of Wisconsin liberals and conservatives all support UW’s decision to look into the campus’s history with the Ku Klux Klan.
UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank released a statement indicating the university would conduct a study group regarding two clubs on campus in the 1920s that had an affiliation with the KKK.
In the statement, Blank said Charlottesville has shown that it was time to take a “fresh look” at UW’s history.
Since the release of the statement, students and faculty have had time to react to the study, which is expected to conclude Dec. 1 of this year.
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Though the research being presented will be controversial, Noel Radomski, director of Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education, said the key to keep the campus united in a time of possible division is to create open lines of communication.
“If the ad hoc committee’s work is open, they adopt a strong outreach component during their work and after the report is finalized, then over time it will likely contribute to more inclusion,” Radomski said.
To make the study an “excellent educational moment,” the study group should hold open forums, work with other UW organizations and keep the UW community updated as new information comes to light, Radomski said.
To reach full conclusions about the activities happening at UW in the 1920s, the group should also look at the role the campus faculty leaders played in the clubs affiliations with the KKK, Radomski said.
“As [we] know, in the 1920s, unlike today, student life, including student organizations, was heavily controlled by faculty and campus leaders,” Radomski said.
Student groups on campus have also formulated their own reactions to the study.
Despite the political drifts, both Young Americans for Freedom and College Democrats gave the study their support.
Abby Streu, YAF chair, said the club is “not at all opposed” to studying the history of the KKK at UW.
“We don’t stand for the KKK, and don’t embrace their values,” Streu said.
College Democrats spokesperson Claudia Koechell echoed similar views. The university community must acknowledge mistakes in the past to make UW a “welcoming environment for all,” she said.
Kochell also condemned UW for not being “diverse” and said it’s “devastating” to learn of the university’s former affiliations with the KKK.
“In order for students to feel welcome at UW, the university must step forward and make an effort to correct disgraceful parts of our past,” Koechell said.