Author: Alyssa Hui
UW-Madison released a homecoming video on social media a week before homecoming weekend that sparked controversy for some students.
The homecoming video received backlash because it didn’t show any students of color or student organizations with people of color in them.
The university’s Student Homecoming Committee requested student organizations to participate in the filming for the video; however, some student organizations like Alpha Kappa Alpha, the university’s first and largest black sorority were not included in the final cut.
The purpose of the video was to create excitement for the upcoming homecoming events. The video featured clips of Ian’s Pizza, students singing and dancing, and what appears to be almost all white students at Camp Randall showing the theme “Home is where WI are.”
Alpha Kappa Alpha spent at least an hour filming with the committee three weeks ago, but no footage of them appeared in the video.
“I was just shocked and disappointed because we were told that we would be in the video and we weren’t,” said UW-Madison senior and sorority member Payton Wade.
Wade also shared her thoughts about the video on Twitter and said “UW-Madison is back at it again reminding us that we don’t belong here and that there is no room for Black students here.”
Following the backlash, the student homecoming committee and the Wisconsin Alumni Association took the video down and apologized for making “members of the community feel excluded.”
In addition, the school released a statement apologizing for the “pain this has caused” and said they will be engaging with students to make a change as a campus community.
According to the Fall 2019 to 2020 enrollment reports from the Office of the Registrar, about 17 percent of students are people of color.
“Even though we make up a small portion here on campus, we’re still here and that wasn’t captured in the video at all,” Wade said.
The Vice-Chancellor Lori Reesor and others in the UW administration sent out a mass email on Friday to all UW students detailing a number of efforts to improve campus climate.
Some of those efforts include diversity, equity, and inclusion training for staff and members in the Student Homecoming Committee and other student organizations, oversight protocols for marketing and communication pieces for student work, and diversifying the leadership of the Wisconsin Alumni Association-sponsored student organizations.
A UW-Madison junior who was featured in the video twice and promoted the video on his social media later recognized the discrimination the video against students of color.
“I was too excited about my organizations being featured in the video and completely missed the idea that there weren’t any students of color featured in this homecoming video,” Dylan Helmenstine said.
Helminstine also shared the importance of recognizing criticisms and problems with the video in order to make a change.
“It’s really important to admit to yourself that you have these inner prejudices because you’re never going to improve yourself if you don’t,” Helminstine said. “If you can’t improve yourself, you can’t expect an institution to do it for you.”
The Student Homecoming Committee president canceled a scheduled interview with WSUM reporters and said in an email “We would like to wait for the discussion to transpire after homecoming weekend….I as both President and a UW student am requesting that we facilitate this discussion after October 12th.”
The executive board of the Homecoming Committee scheduled a meeting with the Director of the Multicultural Student Center, Gabriel Javier on Friday where they discussed feedback and recommendations on how to improve and move forward.