Free speech can harm UWRF community
April 5, 2013
Almost a decade has passed since our journey at UWRF first began.
This campus and community have been near and dear to our hearts since we took our first steps on campus as undergraduates in 2003. In the past 10 years (wow, that makes us feel old), our lives have changed in some pretty significant ways – more than we could have ever imagined. At UWRF we discovered who we were, recognized our potential, met our best friends, and made memories that will last a lifetime (good ones and not-so-good ones).
Our beliefs and values were challenged and re-affirmed, we found love and fell in and out of it, our hearts were broken and we may have broken a few along the way too.
While attending UWRF we realized that our parents know more and are a lot cooler than we ever gave them credit for, and we realized our dreams, passions and goals and became comfortable knowing that they may continue change over time.
We chose to attend UWRF, like many of you, because of the way we felt when we first visited campus. It was a welcoming place, people were friendly, and something about UWRF just felt right. UWRF gave us so much as undergraduates that we choose to give back to this campus community as professional staff today.
As Coordinators in the Department of New Student and Family Programs, we have the privilege of welcoming all new students to the Falcon Family, helping them to become confident in their decision to attend UWRF. We are committed to providing new students with the information, resources, and support that is needed during the transition to and through the college experience.
We do our best to challenge and support new students as they engage in UWRF’s intellectual, cultural, and social climate. Along with many faculty and staff on campus, we put in hundreds of hours each month (and what feels like thousands of hours in August and September) to create a welcoming, safe, and inclusive environment for students to learn and grow.
So let’s talk social media. We understand that Facebook is a social networking site. We know it’s where you stay connected with friends and be you. We respect that; we use it for the same reasons.
However, we’ve begun to wonder if you understand the impact of you are having on our community with your anonymous posts that are ‘just a joke’ on UW River Falls Confessions, your Homecoming t-shirt slogans, etc. You seem to be ok with dividing the community we take pride in and work so hard to build, and we just don’t get it.
What are you trying to achieve by posting hurtful, hateful messages anonymously online? Do you consider how you might be isolating people or invalidating their experiences? Have you ever stopped to think that the person or people you are tearing down are someone’s sister, brother, daughter, son, and friend? In the very least, do you realize how poorly you are representing yourself? By choosing to attend UWRF you are part of our community, right? If that’s true, then what role are you currently playing in our community?
Talk may be cheap but silence is unaffordable. And we can’t and won’t remain silent. What you post online or wear around campus may be free speech, but as former students and current professional staff members, we don’t agree with it.
Let us be clear, we want you to have fun in college, laugh, joke, learn, grow, and make memories and mistakes. Doing these things however, should not come at the cost of our community or someone else’s identity.
In no way are we trying to attack who you are as a person, but if you’re willing to listen, we want you to know how your posts and slogans are impacting us and most likely many of your peers.
As a community, shouldn’t we be building each other up instead of breaking one another down? Life is hard enough as it is. If we are all products of our own experiences and the experience is our product, what are you doing (or not doing) to influence that experience?
We understand that the individuals we really hope read this letter probably won’t, so we challenge you to find your voice and be the change. We want to you have the same, life changing, challenging, incredible, transformative experience we did as undergraduates at UWRF but that experience is dependent on our community and the ways in which we support and encourage one another. So, what will it be? The choice is yours; your community depends on you.
Maggie Clark is a coordinator in the Department of New Student and Family Programs at UW-River Falls.Shelby King is a coordinator in the Department of New Student and Family Programs at UW-River Falls.