I was pleased to see the turnout at this morning’s Titan Community Gathering on campus. Students, faculty and staff made time amid studies and work to come together, share voices and, most importantly, listen. There has been a lot to talk about and think about since we began our new academic year.
We have watched natural disasters devastate cities and lives. Our country is engaged in a complicated national conversation about racism, protest and patriotism. Families are grieving the loss of loved ones after horrific violence in Las Vegas. And, in our own UW Oshkosh community, we have experienced hatred and bias.
Recently, someone etched a racial slur on two students’ residence hall room number placard. Staff were made aware, and they were immediately concerned and motivated to respond. They continue to investigate the incident. I understand how any response to something so hateful and defiant of our values here feels inadequate. Incidents like this should never happen in the first place. UW Oshkosh is a place where all students are valued and supported. The targeted students’ friends, family members and fellow Titans upset by this incident have reached out to me. I share with you what university staff and I have shared with them: What happened is wrong. We condemn it. It does not represent what UW Oshkosh stands for. Our statement is important, however, we also have an obligation to demonstrate our commitment with action.
As Titans, we must do better. Tonight, members of our Black Student Union and the Student Organization of Latinos show their resolve and leadership by hosting a forum called “Unpacking Racism at UW-Oshkosh” at 6 p.m. in Reeve Union Theatre. It is one more opportunity to speak, to listen and to exemplify UW Oshkosh values. This is not the first such responsible forum on campus, and it will not be the last.
When we experience a failure in our work to create an inclusive place, we experience it together. No one should endure alone. We acknowledge what happened, step up to support one another and share resources. One resource I would like to highlight is the Bias Incident Report (http://police.uwosh.edu/bias-incident-report/). I want to help create a campus community where this tool is no longer necessary, yet I know we have much work to do before we achieve that.
My goal since arriving at UW Oshkosh has been to help create a community where ALL people are able to learn, live, and grow in a safe, supportive and caring environment. I value your contributions, and I hope that you will join me and personally rededicate yourself to helping achieve this goal.