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Opinion

‘Inclusivity’ means nothing unless everybody feels included

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November 16, 2016

The other night I attended an event that woke me up from a sleep that I didn’t even know I was in. The event focused on a film called “Inclusive Negligence” by students at UW-La Crosse.

In the film, students of color talked about the racism that they have encountered on campus and the isolation that they feel because of those experiences. Although the film focuses on UWL, its overall objective and the purpose of the event is to spark conversations about how universities in general, like UW-River Falls, can create environments where all students feel safe and included.

The speakers of the night were Laurie Stoll, a professor in the sociology department at UWL, and Karter Etchin, a student at UWL and one of the creators of the film.

The reason why I say it woke me up from a sleep is because, potentially like a lot of other people, I didn’t know that there was such a level of bigotry plaguing universities. From the experiences that I have had thus far at UWRF, I would had never even guessed that this sort of crap was happening around our campus.

It was a comment that was made by a student in the audience during the Q&A portion that made me take a step-back and see our campus in a whole new light. She said, “UWRF has a lot of work to do.”

When that comment was made, I could feel my heart sink to my feet. There was a small ounce of me that felt a little relief while I was watching the film, because as a student of color, I didn’t think that the sort of hatred exhibited at La Crosse was happening in River Falls.

I guess my ignorance stemmed from the fact that I personally have not experienced any of it, but that sort of thinking is ignorant in itself. Just because I haven’t experienced something doesn’t mean that other students aren’t.

Although she didn’t go into detail about what students are experiencing at UWRF, just knowing that somewhere on campus there is a student who is feeling alienated should be enough for us all to want to stand up and do something.

As the Q&A went on and slowly turned into a general open discussion, Etchin said something that resonated with me. He said that the issues that are seen at La Crosse and other universities mirror those that can be seen around the country, which is extremely scary to think about.

Racism is still alive and well in this country, which is apparent with all the hate crimes that are constantly being talked about in the news. I think that everybody should be concerned by that, even those who aren’t part of a minority group; just knowing that our country, let alone college campuses, are filled with such hatred should shake everybody to their core.

With all of this in mind, I can’t help but think about all the signs around campus that broadcast an “inclusive” environment. Those signs are just merely taking up space and mean absolutely nothing if not all students feel included.

The eye-opening film can be accessed by anybody who cares to watch it on UWL’s website. Just type in “Inclusive Negligence” in the search bar. I encourage everybody to watch it, process it and start discussing it.

If there is one thing that I’ve learned in my 21 years of existence, it’s that hate will always exist, but I don’t think that it needs to show its ugly face in schools. Let’s all strive to make our university a brighter place where all students feel valued.