A new student-produced video will be sparking discussion of diversity and campus climate at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
The video, “Inclusive Negligence,” focuses on the experiences of students of color at the university, and was shown to all faculty and staff Wednesday morning as part of UW-L Chancellor Joe Gow’s semester-opening remarks. Produced by a team of students from diverse backgrounds, it will be used by different departments and units on campus to raise awareness of diversity issues and issues faced by minority students.
“We don’t want our voices to go unheard,” UW-L student Jamie Capetillo said.
She said students of color come to campus for all sorts of reasons such as having siblings who attended UW-L, a desire to study in a particular program and others. But while students’ reasons for attending are varied, Capetillo said, their experiences at UW-L are similar and negative.
There isn’t enough emphasis on diversity, she said, and not enough is being done to address concerns students of color have been bringing up for more than a decade. According to a 2013 survey conducted by UW-L’s Campus Climate office, minority students are more likely than white students to seriously consider leaving the university, which is almost 90 percent white.
During interviews for the video, UW-L students of color spoke about the issues they experience on campus and in class. They feel isolated and excluded, many said, or ignored during classroom discussions and group work.
When they are called upon to speak, several of the students interviewed for the documentary said, they are asked to speak on behalf of everyone from their background or country. Other students spoke about how they don’t feel safe in a classroom filled mostly with white students or how their classmates and even their professors sometimes can’t say their names correctly.
“Everybody has to take accountability for their actions,” one of the female students in the video said. “And that is not happening here.”
The film and other resources will be available on the UW-L Institute for Social Justice website in the next week or so, Capetillo told staff. These resources will provide recommendations for UW-L employees on how to be anti-racist activists and provide a better environment for students of color in their classrooms.
The film told employees and administrators to avoid simply trying to be color-blind as that isn’t enough to combat racism on campus. It also asked faculty and staff to educate themselves more on issues of racism and attend events on campus about these issues.
“It is time for UW-L to step up and do something,” Capetillo said.