Chancellor James Schmidt issues update on racist incident

UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt sent the following update on Nov. 21, 2019, to students, faculty and staff regarding recent racist social media posts among a group of UW-Eau Claire students:

Dear Members of the Blugold Community,

This is a dark time for our university.  Earlier this week, a string of racist social media posts from a private Snapchat discussion became public and exposed hateful comments directed at UW-Eau Claire’s Black Male Empowerment group. This incident has left our campus shocked, saddened and, for some, scared.

Let me begin by apologizing for not sending this message sooner. I had hoped to send it yesterday, but I wanted to make sure I had accurate information to share with you; I simply ran out of time. For that, I am sorry.

I want to personally condemn the social media posts. They were despicable and disgusting. The use of an image of a burning cross at an apparent Ku Klux Klan rally is especially disturbing. It is an image that conjures memories of some of the worst atrocities committed against people of color, especially African Americans, in our recent national history. Some of our students, faculty and staff of color likely have had family members who were targeted by such Klan actions. For them, this is personal and visceral. Regardless of intent, the very real impact of the social media posts was that they negatively targeted a specific group of UW-Eau Claire students. This is counter to all our values and I want you to know that we are taking action. Here is what we have done to date and what we expect will happen in the days to come:

  • Tuesday afternoon after learning about these posts, I immediately directed Dean of  Students LaRue Pierce to open a formal investigation into what happened. That investigation continues as of this writing and I expect a decision soon.
  • Director of Athletics Dan Schumacher immediately suspended five students from the football team pending the outcome of the dean of students investigation. Additional, appropriate sanctions may result, pending the outcomes of the investigation.
  • I asked the director of athletics to suspend immediately all social media groups involving our athletics teams until and unless they are being monitored by coaches and other athletics staff members.
  • Director of Athletics Schumacher and head football coach Wesley Beschorner held an emergency meeting of the football team to discuss the incident, and to make clear this kind of racist behavior is not acceptable for any Blugold who represents UW-Eau Claire while wearing our university uniform.
  • On Wednesday I met with members of Black Male Empowerment to discuss the incident.
  • OMA Director Dang Yang and his staff have reached out to our students of color to offer resources and support. They and Dr. Demetrius Smith will meet with students this evening at their request.
  • I encourage all faculty, staff and students to continue to report racist or hate incidents to our Bias/Hate Incident Response Team (BIRT). You can submit a report here

I want to assure all members of the Blugold community that this incident has my full attention. I know we have much work to do around EDI issues. I am committed to concluding our investigation in a timely way and will provide the campus with an update on our progress before the Thanksgiving break. In the meantime, let us all do our best to come together as a campus to embrace our values around inclusion and civility toward all.

Chancellor Jim

James C. Schmidt