The chancellor of the University of Washington-Whitewater has said that a photo making the rounds on social media that heightened attention to race relations at the school has been a complete misunderstanding.
The photo in question is of two students standing in a dorm room. It went viral after students had shared it on both Snapchat and Facebook because some believed the students to be in blackface paint. In a statement made to News 3, the chancellor referred to the photo as "hurtful and destructive to our campus community."
Later, she said that the students were not in blackface, but were in fact participating in a beauty treatment.
"They indicated they had no negative intention, that this was a facial," explains Chancellor Beverly Kopper. "They expressed remorse, not realizing the reaction that would come from this post."
However, members of the Black Student Union do not believe this explanation, and argue that they are faced with the issue of racism on a daily basis at the school. Member Matthew Wade added that an educational course on the topic is needed.
Black Student Union President Radaya Ellis gave the examples of using SnapChat to use the n-word in a mocking tone, and an unidentified individual who has written the n-word on a Black student's page.
Disciplinary action concerning the photo has not been discussed with the students. Instead, she is referring to the incident as "a teachable moment."
The University has announced it will address the incident with the campus and is currently making use of the hashtag #USGcares to highlight student concerns on the topic.
In an effort to address the incident, Kopper has started a program called "Pizza with the Chancellor." Close to 80 students were in attendance the first night to share stories and concerns. However, not all the students believe enough is being done, reports Yona Gavino for TMJ4.
Black Student Union member Ju'Jaraw Singleton said of the program that feeding students and holding pizza parties is not going to solve the racism issues currently facing the campus.
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Dr. Tom Rios has also started a group that meets with students in an effort to research the issues and work to create an action plan for moving forward. The group is expected to meet next week to listen to students and create "a collective response to these actions."
Meanwhile, Senator Steve Nass issued a statement on the topic, calling the response by the administration "a stark example of how political correctness has warped the mindset of highly educated university administrators," reports Nick Bohr for WISN.
In the statement, Nass said that the photo shared on social media portrayed students wearing facial masks that happened to be black. He went on to say that no racist statement was being made in the photo, and that the students were merely standing in the picture.
Nass added that the photo was not investigated thoroughly enough by campus administration before issuing a racially charged statement.