Archive for April, 2016

Everybody Look What’s Going Down

April 14, 2016 Leave a comment

Here’s something I never thought I’d write: one of my best students was pulled out of class and arrested today.

It wasn’t my class; I have not had the student in class since the fall of 2014. Two UWPD officers arrested the Black student in the classroom of a professor of color for a series of anti-white supremacist graffiti pieces that have sprouted up across campus recently.

It is shocking and deeply upsetting that an unarmed suspect of a non-violent crime was pulled from a college class to be arrested. Multiple witnesses reported the officers as having told the student that he’d had his say and now they would have theirs. This is not professional behavior. It is not recognizing my student’s humanity, nor was it respectful of the faculty of color who was teaching and was ignored by the officers. It is not considering what may have driven anyone to post such messages in the first place. And it is differential treatment from those who defaced the University recently at the Wisconsin Institute of Discovery by drawing a person hanging from a noose next to the N-word.

The Dean of Students tweeted that the officers did not make the above statement, a statement that was reported by the faculty member who was in the classroom, but it is not clear to me at this time how the Dean knows this.

Already, my Facebook feed and Twitter stream are awash in calls of support for the student, cries of anguish and anger at how witnesses described the officers’ behavior and claims that when one vandalizes property they deserve 1) no sympathy and 2) to be arrested.

I’d like to call attention to the depth of the issues that seem to have led to the graffiti for which the student was arrested. I do this with firsthand knowledge. In the fall of 2014, the student was in my class J202: Mass Media Practices. It is the introductory course to the journalism and mass communication major at UW-Madison. It has 120 students. He was one of two or three Black students in the class.

One project is an original reporting project in which students pick an important campus topic and tell a series of print, audio, video and data-driven stories about it. The student chose as his topic being Black on a predominantly White campus. Here it is.

Read his story featuring an international expert on the college experiences of Black women on predominantly White campuses (disclosure: I’m married to that expert).

Watch his video of Black students pushing back against the racist narratives diminishing their earned and valuable presence on our campus.

Consider his evidence of who is present on campuses across our conference.

The issues that preceded the graffiti he is accused of were not born of thin air. They were here in the fall of 2014 and they were here long before the student ever set foot on campus. Before he was born. Before I was born.

Speech like the graffiti can come with consequences. But I submit that the more important consequences are those that come from doing nothing – or appearing to do something but really doing nothing – about the systemic racism that has reached a critical flashpoint this semester at #theRealUW.

Categories: Uncategorized

UW Trains Students For Life, Not Just Jobs

April 9, 2016 Leave a comment

My op-ed in the Wisconsin State Journal.

Categories: Uncategorized