By Barbara Young —
To see the incident this story refers to, see Stoutonia.com: “On-Campus Racial Hate leads to strengthened resolve”
In light of the recent racial bias incidents in Menomonie and throughout the United States, several University of Wisconsin–Stout students and Menomonie community members are taking a stand to promote diversity in our community.
After the initial incident, in which two Stout students were accosted by a community member who was ultimately charged with disorderly conduct with a hate crime enhancer, students banded together to try and prevent further bias on campus.
A meeting was held on the Terrace Wednesday, Nov. 19. About 100 students filled the seats to hear what had happened, express their frustration, and hopefully learn what could be done moving forward. Emotions ran high for those close to the two victims, but a passion to move forward was strong in the group. The chancellor was in attendance and listened to the complaints and feelings of the students.
In a brief address he said, “When I first heard about this incident I reacted as a parent, not as a student. I’ve got two children about your age and one is still in school. I expect her to have an environment that is safe.”
“I had no idea how many people were impacted by this situation,” Chancellor Meyer continued. “That’s why it’s important to be [at this meeting]. It sends a message.”
Many attendees of the meetings expressed the need for students and community members to work together to increase the awareness of diversity around the community. In response to this call, Shelby Schuppe, director of organizational affairs, and Andrew Mercil, degree audit coordinator and city council president for Menomonie, worked together to hold an open forum for students and members of the community.
The goal of the meeting was to raise awareness to the racial bias incidents and to generate ideas about how Menomonie can move forward and educate those around them.
The open forum set up a panel of Menomonie leaders including: Menomonie Police Chief, Eric Atkinson; Superintendent of Menomonie School District, Joseph Zydowsky; Menomonie Area Chamber of Commerce CEO, Michelle Dingwall; and Chair of the County Board, Steve Rasmussen.
The meeting gave an update on what had been happening in the community in regards to bias incidents and then proceeded to highlight the serious problem of race relations in the Menomonie community.
Mercil said, “The problem is how do we better educate the older members of our community. No one is born a racist, no one is born a bigot, what can we do in the community to help make this a more welcoming and safe place for everyone?”
Several ideas were given. Many faith leaders attended the meeting and discussed trying to dedicate a month in spring to working on diversity and its purpose in our community.
According to Schuppe, the Stout Student Association and BSU are working to “have posters or some sort of signage on businesses saying that they are inclusive of everyone and that they won’t let those type of things happen in their establishment.” The idea will be brought to a Main Street Menomonie meeting in the coming week.
Schuppe also mentioned many organizations want an increase in bias trainings throughout campus.
Several organizations already hold bias incident training sessions, but most are only open to a selective group of people. Great interest has been placed in getting these trainings to be open to a wider variety of people.
The Stout Bias Incident response team is working on the procedures that didn’t go through like they were supposed to during the original incident, resulting in a poorly informed student body. The procedures are being reviewed that go into what constitutes a news release as well as trying to get the word out that students should report when something happens to them on their Stout webpage.
Students wanting to become active in the process and suggest further ideas are encouraged to contact Schuppe and to join in the conversation on the Facebook page, Stout Hate Crime Support Team.