College News

UW-Eau Claire opens doors to new Black Cultural Center to promote campus inclusivity

To reconcile with a predominantly white campus, UW-Eau Claire opened their doors to a new African-American student facility Monday.

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Covering the walls of the new UW-Eau Claire Black Cultural Center are images of black influencers — from Maya Angelou to Malcolm X to Martin Luther King, Jr. — to welcome African-American student organizations to their new space on campus Monday.

The necessity for a space for underrepresented students was recognized by the Black Student Organization last fall.

Once they met with Chancellor James Schmidt and Vice Chancellor Tamara Johnson to address the challenges they face as black students on a predominantly white campus, ideas for an official place developed.

"The number one priority that the students mentioned was being able to have a space here,” Vice Chancellor Johnson told WEAU 13 News, “They wanted a space that they could call their own, a space that they felt comfortable and welcome, a space that they felt like they could study, that they could convene, that they could actually have a community of people given the population is so small."

According to 2017-’18 enrollment data released from the National Center for Education, there are 10,904 students attending the university, but only one percent of the total enrolled students are classified as African-American.

"Growing up in even the high schools and middle schools I went to, there were very diverse populations I was around,” said Larrick Potvin, a senior at UW-Eau Claire. “So, coming here, I'd walk into class and the first thing I'd see were 100 white faces looking at me. So, it was kind of a big culture shock,"

The establishment of the African-American cultural center is a significant demonstration of how much the university cares for the students, according to UW-Eau Claire graduate Angela Pittman Taylor.

“Everybody needs a space where they feel safe, seen, heard and valued,” Taylor said.

In establishing a place for African-American students to embrace their culture, UW-Eau Claire made progressive shift forward.

However, this should not be the only progress, according to Potvin.

"I want a more diverse community and population,” Potvin said. This is a good step that we've made, but there's plenty more steps that we need to take.”

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