UW-Madison holds race-exclusive discussions about fatal shootings

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In response to last week’s series of fatal shootings, a department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison looked to give students and faculty space Monday to discuss the incidents.

UW’s Multicultural Student Center held four meetings Monday for faculty, staff and students to process and reflect on the events, but who was invited to these meetings is raising some questions on campus.

The meetings were held in an attempt to create an open space for people of different races to process last week’s events without feeling uncomfortable. To do this, MSC held separate meetings for the black and white communities

“I think a lot of the issues that we have when it comes to race relations in this country is because we feel so divided, and if we are going to conquer it we need to do it together,” student Adam Meyer said.

The discussions come after a string of violence across the nation last week involving black men and law enforcement officers. Students said while the group’s intentions may have been good, the center should’ve handled the meetings differently.

“If you are trying to get both groups to work together, why not have them both there talking about it. You’re just separating them, having them each say different things, when they should be hearing what each other has to say,” Ryan Sreenibasam said.

“You get different perspectives and then the conversation can be started. If you are with the same demographic, then you guys are sharing the same experiences, and the same opinions basically,” student Elizabeth Toye said.

University officials said participants requested a space to express their feelings without being judged. Gabe Javier, the interim director for MSC, issued a statement to News 3.

“The MSC is primarily designed to support students, along with faculty and staff communities that identify as people of color. We appreciate all of our allies and none of the sessions prevent anyone else from sitting in. However, it is a best practice in our work to allow quiet and reflective space for those who request it,” he said in the statement.

“There probably is something to be said for having that safe space but I think that beyond that it’s not a comfortable thing we are dealing with and we need to go outside our comfort zone,” Meyer said.

After campus protests last semester surrounding race relations, students say for different races to understand each other, they don’t need more separation.

“There’s clearly a segment of the population that has legitimate grievances or has some reason to feel like there is a sharp divide. So for me I think it’s crucial that we hear that side,” student Aaron Stenz said.

UW-Madison hosts public forums on diversity and race on campus throughout the year that include all races.