December 17th, 2013
In 2010, the UW-Whitewater campus was rocked by a series of five hate crimes.
Students were shocked as, within the span of a few months, a woman was punched in the face while wearing a “Legalize gay” t-shirt, another woman was pushed against a fence and had homophobic slurs yelled at her and three African-American students had their cars vandalized.
Nearly four years later, these crimes and their aftermath have affected the campus in a number of ways, including creation of new diversity programs, new on-campus safety programs and new positions on campus to advocate diversity and acceptance.
Although a new attitude seems to have permeated the UW-Whitewater campus, some remain skeptical that the campus has made much progress.
When the hate crimes occurred, news organizations across Wisconsin scooped the story. From Janesville to Milwaukee to LaCrosse, almost every news organization in Wisconsin reported the crimes.
Because two of the crimes involved LGBT issues, famous gossip blog PerezHilton.com even made a post about the story, linking to a news story from Madison.
UW-Whitewater hosted an anti-hate crime rally, which more than 200 students attended.
Lauren Meyer, the woman who was punched in the face for wearing a “Legalize gay” t-shirt, spoke to the crowd about her hopes for the campus.
“Hopefully, people will start to change and be open-minded because stuff like this really shouldn’t be happening,” Meyer said to the students in attendance. “I know I’m not going to change for anybody just because they feel they have the right to knock me down.
The campus took Meyer’s plea for change to heart.
UW-Whitewater banded together to create the multi-faceted “We Are All Purple” program. According to the website, the mission of this program is to acquire “a reputation as an institution that truly values and nurtures diverse intellectual, cultural, creative and service opportunities.”
The program held multiple events to embrace diversity, such as a forum on diversity, a diversity celebration week and a musical called “Sing Against Hate.”
A video accompanied the campaign showing people from different organizations speaking on their reaction to the crimes.
One of the most important programs to come from this campaign is the Safe Zone program. The Safe Zone program allows faculty and the general campus community to hang a placard in their window indicating that their facility is one that accepts and embraces the LGBT community.
According to the Safe Zone program’s flyer, a Safe Zone:
• Provides a safe space for members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender campus community.
• Is an office or place where staff is willing to talk with members of the campus community in a non-threatening environment and will be non-judgmental.
• Is a place where topics of discussion may or may not relate to the person’s sexual orientation and all discussions will remain confidential.
A reward fund also was established for any information regarding the hate crimes.
A Safe Campus?
These hate crimes raised questions among some students about whether or not the UW-Whitewater campus was a safe place to be.
Senior Mjay Bouska was a freshman in 2010 when the hate crimes occurred.
“I was pretty surprised when I heard the news, especially after the incidents with the cars happened,” Bouska said. “That was the third crime in just a couple months. I remember thinking ‘Wow, is this campus really safe?’”
Justin Henry was also a freshman in 2010, and his brother, Jacob, was a junior at the time.
“I remember my brother actually lived over by Tratt Street where the lady got punched in the face,” Henry said. “I was nervous to go over to his house because I thought maybe I would get assaulted or something.”
Although he was not a part of the LGBT community, Henry said he just felt a general sense of nervousness in that area after the assault.
Police Chief Matthew Kiederlen, however, said that the UW-Whitewater campus is a safe place.
Although there are safety programs on campus that have developed since 2010, it has not been as a direct result of the crimes that occurred.
Kiederlen said, however, that the UW-Whitewater Police Department offers a variety of services to in the case that they do not feel safe, including stations on campus with phones available to call officers in case of an emergency and the Safe Walk program.
Through the Safe Walk program, a campus police officer will walk with a person if they do not feel safe.
The Campus Service Officer program, which Kiederlen called the backbone of the safety escort program, has expanded, but this has been a result of other demands from this program.
Although these programs are available, Kiederlen said there was no increase in usage after the hate crimes.
“Quite frankly, we might get two or three requests for walking services a month,” Kiederlen said. “People feel pretty dang safe on this campus.”
Some additional patrolling in the area of the crimes did occur, but Kiederlen said this was mainly a result of an attempt to gather witnesses of the crimes, not a result of the crimes themselves and any safety concerns they may have invoked.
Kiederlen said that instead of a reaction of a feeling of insecurity for the campus, there was more an outcry from people who disagreed with the crimes committed, which created more of a sense of community on campus.
“The way the campus responded made it fairly obvious that, if anything, these things were an anomaly, and not a norm for the campus,” Kiederlen said. “That took a lot of overall concern for safety out of the picture. “
Compared to other campuses Kiderlen has seen, UW-Whitewater ranks at the top in terms of safety, Kiederlen said.
The major crimes we see on campus are usually fights between two people who know each other, Kiederlen said, and violent crime is basically non-existent on campus.
“I think we’re a really safe campus,” Kiederlen said. “I would stack our statistics up against anybody.”
The least violent of the hate crimes that occurred in 2010 involved three African-American students. Their tires were slashed, and KKK was spray painted on their cars.
Rob Gambsky, Assistant Director of Admissions and essential part of multicultural recruitment at UW-Whitewater, said it would be easy for people to look at a crime like this and not want to attend UW-Whitewater anymore.
This was not the case, however, Gambsky said.
Gambsky said that there was no drop in enrollment of minority students after 2010. In reality, the number of minority students enrolled at UW-Whitewater has actually increased since 2010.
Although the increase in enrollment does coincide with the period when the new diversity programs began being implemented, the correlation between these events does not mean that one caused the other, Gambsky warned.
“As you see an increase in the number of minorities that populate the state, you’re obviously going to see an increase in the number that enroll and attend,” Gambsky said.
But in general, students were not dissuaded from attending UW-Whitewater, Gambsky said.
In attempts to bring multicultural students to UW-Whitewater, Gambsky arranges for Milwaukee area schools to take buses to tour UW-Whitewater and see what the school has to offer through the “Wheels to Whitewater” program.
“There was some hesitance from some students,” Gambsky said. “They would say ‘Well, I heard about this,’ or ‘I heard about that,’ but once they got the facts, they were alright with it. I think students understand that sometimes these things just happen.”
Gambsky said he does believe that UW-Whitewater is a safe and accepting campus.
Positions Created Help Embrace Diversity
As time went on and the hate crimes from 2010 shrunk in the rear view mirror of UW-Whitewater, more programs continued to arise.
In addition to these new programs came new positions that were created to help the campus embrace diversity.
Intergroup Relations Coordinator, held by Mai Yer Yang, is an example of one of those new positions.
Yang works in the Warhawk Connection Center, which is located on the main floor of the University Center. The WCC is a harbor for multiple different diversity organizations, such as the Southeast Asian Organization, IMPACT, Latinos Unidos, Black Student Union among others.
Her job was created two years ago, and she is in charge of coordinating all of the diversity activities on campus, Yang said.
One of the educational events Yang coordinates is the multicultural lecture series, which covers different ethnicities and helps educate students on campus about different identity groups.
Yang also oversees the Connection Student Council, which is new to the campus.
This council is not necessarily a governing council, but an outlet for all the organizations housed in the Warhawk Connection Center to talk to each other about what is going on in their organization and how they can help each other, Yang said.
If there is an issue on campus, the council helps by coming together and finding out who to contact and how the situation should be handled, Yang said.
Yang said the development of the council has helped eliminate duplication of programs and streamlined parts of the diversity education program, and has also helped build relationships between the different organizations.
“In the past, there was no connection between those student orgs, they were their own little silos,” Yang said. “Now that we have an actual council, they are collaborating and building relationships.”
A second position, also located in the Warhawk Connection Center, is the LGBT coordinator, held by Cindy Konrad.
The LGBT coordinator helps run the PB Poorman PRIDE Resource Center, which is a new facility on campus. Located in the Warhawk Connection Center, the PRIDE Resource Center’s mission is to “provide the campus with an inclusive, safe, and fun atmosphere that embraces diversity and allows individuals to explore issues of gender and sexual identities,” according to a flyer provided by the PRIDE Resource Center.
The PRIDE Center not only sponsors LGBT related events, but also can be used as an educational resource center for the LGBT community and the entire campus, Konrad said. Resources the PRIDE Resource Center provides include information on sex and gender, health issues, LGBT rights, LGBT employment issues and other issues relating to sex and gender.
The PRIDE Resource Center also has four student interns who help coordinate LGBT programs throughout campus.
Konrad said the PRIDE Resource Center is a great way for students to learn, but also to garner attention for issues, to foster leadership in students and advocate for equality.
How Far Has Campus Come?
With the creation of all of the new programs and positions since 2010, it would be easy to think that UW-Whitewater is a discrimination-free campus.
This is not the case, however, said both Konrad and Gambsky.
In his 17 years on campus, Gambsky said he has always had students come to his office with some concerns or issues about students on campus.
Although most of the issues are small, such as a student calling another student a derogatory word, students are coming to visit him nonetheless, Gambsky said.
These issues sometimes bother Gambsky on a personal level, he said, because he develops a personal bond with many of the students. He usually knows them from recruiting in the Milwaukee school area, and it can be hurtful to see them having issues after having such a bond with them.
“No matter where you go, you’re going to have a little bit of things like this,” Gambsky said. “But you just have to address it immediately and let people know that this kind of thing isn’t tolerated.”
What was a more serious issue was when Gambsky received a note on his door a few years ago. The note read “Go back to where you came from.”
This was an isolated incident, Gabmsky said, and did not involve any specific students, just himself.
“There are always going to be some people like that who do things like the note on my door that just don’t get it,” Gambsky said. “They’re ignorant, and it’s hard to get rid of, but you just have to deal with and be stronger than that.”
Konrad had similar sentiments. She said that students often come to her with issues that still arise on campus.
Konrad said that the things that come to her office are not nearly as serious as the hate crimes that occurred in 2010, but are more on the level of what Konrad called “microaggression.” Students will report that they heard people using derogatory language, either directed toward or in the vicinity of the student, or that they heard people implying that being LGBT is a bad thing.
Konrad said she has seen students come to her with issues like this from both students and staff.
Staff will sometimes say things when they do not know a student can hear, or will say things directly to a student that can be accidentally or purposefully offensive, Konrad said.
“Although there’s a lot of support on campus, we do see a lot of low level situations,” Konrad said.
In a similar situation to Gambsky, though, Konrad said she was recently berated on campus about being a lesbian.
“I had someone recently tell me that I’m going to hell, and they said I was no better than a murderer or a pedophile,” Konrad said. “This stuff happens, it happens everywhere and can happen on our campus too.”
Konrad said that these things may still happen on campus, but that the education programs that are currently in place may help people who are not familiar with LGBT issues.
What is Next for Campus?
Some issues do still exist, but campus is still expanding their diversity education program in an attempt to help fix those issues.
Konrad said starting in the spring semester, there will be a diversity leadership certificate. Students will be able to get an honors certificate with their degree in diversity leadership.
The Warhawk Connection Center also will continue to bring in new speakers and lecturers for their programs. They recently had their most successful lecture yet, where a professor came in to talk about the effect of hip-hop music on the African-American culture, Yang said.
Yang said these programs continue to develop, and during the spring semester the Southeast Asian Organization will be able to take a trip to Minnesota to visit the world’s largest Hindu temple.
Along with these developments, the UW-Whitewater campus has joined to work on a rubric that will be used to assess students’ abilities to learn about diversity issues.
“It’s not like its two or three people sitting in a room working on these things, it’s a lot of people from across campus, which is really exciting,” Konrad said.
November 19th, 2013
Tuesday night’s Jefferson County Board meeting opened with a public comment from Andy Didian warning of the dangers of pulling money from the parks budget.
The overall theme of the meeting continued along that path for the rest of the night.
During the meeting, the Jefferson County budget was finalized, and a total of five amendments concerning the parks budget were discussed.
The budget increased $150,000 from last year, an increase of 0.6 percent to about 27 million dollars. The mill rate in this budget was 4.2655, or $42.65 for every $1,000 of equalized value.
Total spending in the budget, however, is about 83 million dollars. County board member John Molinaro said this spending looks bigger than it really will be, because services such as the Sherriff’s department, human services and the highway department all get reimbursement from the state although they are included in the budget.
These programs are mandated through the state.
A new highway shop was included in the budget that will be used to store about 60 percent of the vehicles used to clean highways during snow removal, and it included cold storage for vehicles used for construction during the summer.
The facility will also include a welding shop and mechanic bay.
The first amendment proposed added three million dollars to a bond for highway progress to fund additions to a bike trail. The amendment would be used only if additional funding was needed, but the amendment was rejected in a 19-8 vote.
George Jaeckel proposed a second amendment that would eliminate a total of $55,000 from the parks budget that would be used for grooming machines for ski trails. Jaeckel proposed the money be used for new cars for the police department instead.
It was noted, however, that the police department just bought new vehicles and did not have a need for new ones at the time. The amendment was rejected by a vote of 18-9.
A series of four amendments were then proposed by Gregory Torres. Torres said the amendments, three related to the parks budget, would help ease the burden created by the proposed “tax to the max” budget.
The amendments included removing $278,000 from the farm budget, removing $9,000 from the parks budget to build a disc golf course, removing $45,000 from the parks budget for recreational equipment and removing $13,000 from the parks budget for a well at the Garman Nature Preserve.
These amendments all failed 24-3, 22-5, 23-4 and 25-2 respectively. After hearing arguments against his Garman Nature Preserve amendment, Torres ended up voting against it himself.
Molinaro said in the future, he has a few concerns about the budget including how realistic is it to continue operating at a zero levy cap with increasing prices, increasing government salaries and benefits and the increasing cost of health insurance.
“The cost of health insurance continues to rise at a frightening level, so what is our alternative?” Molinaro said. “If we have a zero levy cap, we have no ability to increase revenues to pay for that increase.”
The Jefferson County Board will meet again at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10 in the Jefferson Municipal Building Room 205.
November 12th, 2013
Carmen McCray’s expectation in coming to UW-Whitewater was to have school change her, not for her to change the school.
That is exactly what happened to McCray, however, with the help of the Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) program.
The LEAP program is campus initiative that enables students to take ideas and create a difference with university support during the course of three semesters, said Associate Dean of the College of Business and Economics Lois Smith.Cook
Each group goes through two eight-hour workshops in January to refine its ideas. After implementing the ideas on a trial basis for one semester, two more eight-hour workshops take place in May to review progress and update plans for the group, said assistant vice chancellor for Academic Affairs Greg Cook.
This year’s themes are inclusive excellence and innovation, Cook said.
McCray’s team is implementing its plan to integrate the English department with the Young Auditorium and expand a program McCray created called Connect the Dots.
Connect the Dots is a program that helps accommodate at-risk students, McCray said.
The LEAP program will allow sophomores to participate instead of only freshmen, McCray said.
McCray said the LEAP program has benefited her in a few different ways.
“It’s gotten me connected with staff across campus, just from working with the staff on my team from the previous year and the team I am working with this year,” she said. “It has diversified me on campus.”
Who funds the stipends?
For participating in the program, each person in the group receives a stipend funded by the Provost’s office. Each participant receives $200 after the January workshops and $600 after the May workshops, Cook said.
“The Provost’s office has really supported the LEAP initiative as a way to enhance teaching and student-learning all across campus,” Cook said.
Cook said the LEAP program is important to students because it helps students learn more skills to be employable and successful in their career field.
“It helps students to understand that this is what students are looking for, so with LEAP we want to help students be ready for that marketplace and know what students are looking for,” Cook said.
Each year, the theme of the program changes.
The inclusive excellence theme was chosen to help provide a more multicultural learning environment, and innovation was chosen to bring new ideas to provide the best opportunities for students to learn, Cook said.
Last year’s theme was breaking down silos, which meant creating teams that included people from different offices instead of having teams all from one office.
Background of the program
The LEAP program was started in 2005 by the Association of American College and Universities. Wisconsin was the pilot state for this program, Cook said.
In 2010, UW-Whitewater adopted the Essential Learning Outcomes provided by the LEAP program, Cook said. These outcomes include knowledge of human culture and the physical and natural world, intellectual and practical skills, personal and social responsibility and integrative learning, according to a handout produced by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
Smith said that previous to the LEAP program, each office on campus had its own different set of learning outcomes. The new Essential Learning Outcomes provided by LEAP, which were approved by Whitewater Student Government, Faculty Senate, Academic Staff Assembly, Student Affairs and administrators, provide overarching goals for the whole campus, Smith said.
To supplement these Essential Learning Outcomes, the LEAP program implements High-Impact Education Practices, including:
• First-year seminars
• Learning communities
• Writing-intensive courses
• Collaborative projects
• Undergraduate research
• Capstone courses and projects
UW-Whitewater began offering the workshops, like the one McCray is participating in, in 2011, Cook said.
Since the workshops have been offered, 60 teams and almost 300 individuals have participated, according to a handout from the office of the Provost’s office.
Smith said all students are encouraged to apply for the program, especially students with junior or lower standing, because the program takes three semesters, Smith said.
Students interested in applying should form a team of three with representatives from three of more different departments with at least one student, and apply with Cook at CookG@uww.edu.
Applications should include a list of group members, a one-paragraph description of the group’s goal and main motivation for participating in the program, and which dates (January 7-8, January 14-15, May 19-20, and May 22-23) would be best for your group’s workshops.
September 24th, 2013
A new H20 Score system will be implemented for Whitewater residents as announced Tuesday, Sept. 17 at the Whitewater Common Council Meeting at the Whitewater Municipal Building.
Mickey Young of H20 Score announced that his company signed an agreement to provide this water conservation program in Whitewater. The program will cost $500 for Whitewater’s water utility.
The vote to pay this $500 fee for this service was unanimous.
Professor McGee Young described the company’s start up at the meeting.
Two years ago, the Marquette professor was contracted to help Waukesha make better use of their water. After that endeavor was successful, UW-Whitewater called Young and asked for help in getting better information form their SmartWater sensors.
It took about a year and a half for Young to develop his system, but he came up with the H20 Score dashboard. This dashboard tracks water usage online.
Young said he is now going to bring the next generation technology to the Whitewater community.
This technology will come with a conservation rewards program. This program will reward users who receive good scores on their H20 Score dashboard by using their water efficiently. These points will be redeemable for deals around the Whitewater community in local businesses.
In a town with so much student housing, this will be a good opportunity for landlords, Young said. By being able to monitor how much water is being used, landlords will be able to notice more quickly when something is awry in the house, such as a leaky toilet. The landlord can then fix the issue before the resident becomes upset or the situation loses them a substantial amount of money.
Also, the landlord will receive the points for the score on the H20 Score dashboard. They have a few different options of what to do with the points. They can give these points to their tenants in an effort to encourage efficient water use, or they can use the points for themselves and reap the benefits of this new system, Young said.
Young will travel to the WaterSmart Innovations Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas this year to display his new technology to a national audience. More information can be found on that conference at http://www.watersmartinnovations.com.
Some other events from the council meeting included:
• A class B beer and liquor license was transferred to Day n’ Night from Robert Sweet, as to be used for the Downstairs Sports Bar at 204 W. Main St.
• Smoke testing of the Whitewater sewer system that will occur Sept. 23. The testing will find clear water connections in the sewer system. These clear water connections cause a problem because rainwater surges into the wastewater facilities during storms. The smoke testing may cause smoke to rise through drains in residential homes, or into the yards of Whitewater residents, but is no concern for public safety. The wastewater facility will fix any clear water connections with no fines for homeowners.
• A mitigation study will be held after flooding has become an issue in Whitewater. The study will look at areas to see how to better handle storm water. The study will be time consuming and possibly expensive, but it will cover the entire city. The study may show that large capital investments will have to be made in order to fix issues with drainage.
• City Manager Cameron Clapper gave a preliminary budget report at the meaning. The report showed the financial standings of Whitewater before the budget is made for next year. Clapper said Whitewater needs to begin to work on self-reliance and get away from state aid.
September 4th, 2013
First and foremost, I enjoy being entertained. Because of that, I love watching sports, watching movies, watching good television shows and listening to music. Mainly, I love sports. I am a big fan of the Chicago Bears, the Chicago Bulls, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Wisconsin Badgers. I have been a Wisconsin Badger football season ticket holder for three years now, and I hope to continue that tradition for a long while.
I am also a big music fan. Previously, I ran a music blog with a friend, but we decided to shut the site down. This was mainly due to the fact that we were the only ones visiting the site, but it was fun while it lasted.
I am a journalism major with a political science minor because I like reading the news and being informed. I love reading the news, and I love writing, so I figured writing the news would be a fun job. If I could incorporate sports in that, that would be a nice bonus.
I hope you enjoy reading my blog.