UW-Eau Claire junior Kayde Langer woke up Sunday morning to find one of her door decorations defaced with a racist message on the floor.
The words “go back to the rez” were scrawled on the paper avocado decoration with black marker along with a racial slur directed at Indigenous people.
Langer, who is Red Lake Ojibwe, said she was surprised to see the racist message, despite similar experiences in the past.
“It was just very out there, even for Eau Claire,” she said. “UW-Eau Claire is a very white campus, but I still didn't expect them to go this far. It's still very disheartening to even think about that.”
Langer plans to fill out a BIRT report — a formal account of the incident to be addressed by the university’s Bias/Hate Incident Response Team — but hasn’t yet. She isn’t too hopeful about the results, however, because of previous experiences.
“In the past, I've had other incidents, and administration a lot of the time ignores us,” Langer said. “I've been ignored multiple times, and there's no consequences to being racist.”
Langer shared a photo of the vandalized door decoration on her Twitter just after 1 p.m. Sunday — and by Sunday night, the post had over 150 retweets.
UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt responded to the tweet Sunday night, saying, "The racist who wrote this despicable comment is not welcome on this campus," and asking students to support each other in condemning hate speech.
The next morning, Schmidt emailed a statement to campus, informing students of the incident and condemning intolerance. He also directed the Dean of Students office to conduct a formal investigation into the vandalism in partnership with BIRT and the Office of Multicultural Affairs, along with Housing and Residential Life.
Assistant Chancellor for Facilities and University Relations Mike Rindo said a reason students could've had unsatisfactory results after submitting a BIRT report is because disciplinary actions can't always be revealed under federal privacy laws. Because of this, investigation outcomes are often unclear to the students who filed the reports.
Rindo emphasized UW-Eau Claire isn't taking this incident lightly.
"UW-Eau Claire does not tolerate racist or hateful activity like this and takes it very seriously, and Chancellor Schmidt has made equity, diversity and inclusiveness one of the cornerstones of our strategic mission," Rindo said. "This is something that gets a lot of attention and a lot of resources at our university, and that's how we deal with these kinds of incidents."
For Langer, the ideal course of action for the university would be to discipline the person responsible.
“I want [UW-Eau Claire], if they can find the person, to hold them accountable because right now it feels like as if Eau Claire's a very safe space for racism to happen,” she said. “I want them held accountable, whatever measure that has to be. I don't think they should be educated because at this point, this is intentional harm and not a lack of education.”
Update 9/16/19 4:24 p.m.: This story has been updated to include a response from UW-Eau Claire.