MADISON (WKOW) – Fifty people Monday demonstrated at the UW-Madison Housing Office in support of a dormitory house fellow, who was placed on leave after telling students on their floor to limit the number of white visitors.
The demonstrators held up signs of dissatisfaction with the level support and treatment of students of color on campus.
A UW-Madison spokesperson says Witte Hall Multicultural Learning Community’s Chuefeng Yang told students of the predominantly minority student housing wing to limit the number of white guests to help retain the dormitory section as a safe space for students of color and underrepresented students.
UW peer mentor Lisa Yaj says the demonstration was to highlight past insults and slights to students of color on the housing wing, offer proposals for improvement of minority student climate and support Yang.
“They literally gave him paid leave that quick and they didn’t want there to be a big uproar, but for the incidents before, we’ve been crying about it for years, nothing happens,” Yai says.
Yang says students of color approached him about the influx of white visitors to the Witte Hall wing being uncomfortable for them, and they noted stares, insults and rowdy behavior took place during these visits.
“I made the decision to listen to the needs of the students of color because the rest of the campus will not,” Yang says.
“Your friends are being racist and it’s not our responsibility to have to teach to white kids on how to stop being racist,” Julia Chang said during the campus demonstration. “We don’t need to be watched like animals in our space as we’re trying to make a home out of it.”
Spokesperson Meredith McGlone says a number of students reported Yang’s directive.
“Discrimination is counter to our values as an institution,” McGlone says. “In addition, federal and state law prohibit the university from discriminating in its programs and services based on race.”
“The university created the Multicultural Learning Community as a space for students to come together, create a multicultural community and support one another,” she says.
“I’m not going to apologize for standing up and advocating for students color,” Chuefeng Yang says. Yang says they do not consider their instruction to limit dormitory visitors of one race discriminatory, just an attempt to uplift marginalized students.
“Residents have the right to invite whatever visitors they wish, regardless of their background/identity,” McGlone says.
The 20-year old Yang’s leave is paid. But they’re banned from living at Witte Hall during the leave period, and is now in other campus housing.
Demonstrating students say house fellows working the multicultural community should receive higher pay and more help, given the additional support some residents need as a result of past, psychological trauma tied to their identities.
McGlone says dialogue continues between university officials and an inclusion coalition over ways to improve the campus climate.
“We also want to be clear that the MLC plays a vital role within University Housing…in centering underrepresented students and raising awareness among majority students,” McGlone says.