My name is Andre Hunter and I’m the Senior Class President for the Class of 2017. Before attending UW, I already heard of stories of challenges to diversity and injustices against people of different backgrounds. But, I would have never thought that there are students that have to first focus on surviving the day, and then focus on surviving the classroom.
Part of my duties as Class President is to promote the Wisconsin Experience and the Wisconsin Idea. Still, it’s hard to bring students together and facilitate learning, when students are spit on by others because of their skin color, or students hack UW Printers to have them print racist and homophobic statements, or even with the fact that UW-Madison is 4th in the nation for federal investigations for sexual assault. Let it be known, even though we are on a campus of 43,000, you will meet someone who has experienced some sort of injustice on this campus.
My freshman year, a group of white students were walking down the street towards me. Without cause, one of the white students proceeded to call me a “fucking chink.” I brushed it off at first, but how can it be normal or even be labeled a joke to insult someone for their race? It’s even worse because I’m not Chinese, but Filipino and African American. The University states under the Wisconsin Experience, that students leave with “Intercultural knowledge and competence.”
But, where is the evidence of UW promoting this on campus? Sure, some students here come from a town of 1,000 and some from a city of 1 million. Not everyone has had the experiences to interact with different types of people. But, I was truly challenged of my identity when a student stated that I didn’t look Black enough to be Black and I didn’t act Asian enough to be Asian, during my freshman year.
My experiences aren’t even comparable to others’ who have been treated far worse, but nonetheless, promoting racial stereotypes and attacking student’s identities does not embody the Wisconsin Experience and has no place on this campus. If students first attend this University thinking it’s acceptable to encourage stereotypes and walk outside in public and shout racial slurs, we need to invest in resources to erase it by the time students leave.
It’s even far more shameful that these issues have been going on for years, but recent events on campus has alerted many students as if this was a random occurrence. The time for campus-wide emails and community sit-downs are ineffective and over.It’s time to pick up the pace and for the University to pick a side.
They can either hold dearly to the status quo, or they can join students and find ways to promote the resources and opportunities that cornered students are pleading for. Unless pen is put to paper, these protests will not divide, but only multiply, and our University will be further stained by community apathy towards injustice on campus.
Nonetheless, fellow students also need to step up, for neutrality is only going further the oppressor’s cause. No matter how large or small, all students have a part to play, for we decide how great this campus can be. The faster we can promote programs, education, and funding for equity and inclusion on campus, the faster we can get back to enjoying the Badgers in the 4th quarter and relaxing on the Terrace.
–Andre Hunter Jr