On Sept. 28, Chancellor Bernie Patterson sent out an email to students and staff concerning troubling incidents have been occurring to students of color.
“There’s been two or three, maybe more, instances of vehicles – usually pickup trucks of varying descriptions – driving around or through campus and rolling down the window and yelling racial slurs at some of our students of color,” said Patterson.
Patterson said these reported incidents involved using racial slurs, physical harassment and vehicles chasing students of color, prompting him to write the email.
Patterson said, “It happened once or twice in the spring described as a red pickup truck and then a couple times or three times this semester, and actually one of them yelled at our deans as well. So they’re not just picking students.”
It is easy to notice discrimination when it occurs on campus, said Jerron “Bubba” Baldwin, senior drama major.
“Coming to a place like Stevens Point where the diversity is so small is a culture shock,” said Baldwin.
Patterson and Troy Seppelt, dean of students, said that racial incidents are taken seriously by the university. They and other administrators are working towards addressing situations quickly and efficiently. The chancellor’s email was one way to address these issues.
Seppelt, said, “I have shared with the chancellor, the provost, the vice chancellor of university affairs, chief diversity officer, chief of police, sheriff of protective services and literally every member of SGA the list of what’s happened. In terms of balance of transparency and care for our community, I think all the people who have some level of power to act know what’s going on deeply.”
Although efforts are being made to help students feel safe, some students still do not feel comfortable. Baldwin said the first time he was called a racial slur was after coming to Stevens Point.
“I was taken back and was like, ‘What did I do? You don’t even know me to call me that.’,” Baldwin said.
To enforce a larger patrol, Protective Services Director Bill Rowe said campus security is increasing patrol hours and staff to about 1500 hours a week. Patterson said that city police are assisting in investigations as well, including the cases of the pickup trucks.
Students are encouraged to come to university administration with questions or concerns about racial incidents on campus and how they can be stopped.
“We, as administrators on campus, are predominantly male and predominantly white, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be incredible allies to all of our students,” Seppelt said.
Additionally, the university administration is meeting with multicultural student organizations to learn more about these racially insensitive cases. Ta Xiong, senior English major and inclusivity director of SGA, said learning from students of different cultures will help both staff and students who want to learn about different cultures.
Baldwin and Xiong said opening the minds of students would make for a safer campus. White students talking with students of color creates a respect for different cultures.
Baldwin said, “We wouldn’t be here in college if we knew everything, so what I say that white people can do in Stevens Point that want to help is get involved. Go to all the different multicultural organizations and meetings and ask what you can do to help.”
Clubs like the Black Student Union and the Hmong and South East Asian American Club are open to all students interested in learning different cultures. Most diversity organizations want students of all ethnicities to join cultural clubs, said Xiong.
“As inclusivity director, I’ve spoken to many of the multicultural orgs and what most of them have told me explicitly is that they want students who don’t identify with their ethnic background to come,” Xiong said.
Patterson would like witnesses of to report racial incidents by taking pictures or videos with a phone or reporting a problem in person.
“It won’t get better if we don’t all work on it, and I can’t work on it if I don’t know what’s going on,” Patterson said.
Ways to report incidents include calling Protective Services, talking to an advisor or professor, or even using S.P.I.N. anonymously. In an emergency, call 911.