UW-Madison students protest Slichter Housing Office to support students of color
Witte Residence Hall’s Multicultural Learning Community serves as an intentional space for students of color on the UW-Madison campus.Image By: Morgan Lock
Students protested UW-Madison Housing’s lack of attention to students of color Monday outside Slichter’s Housing Office.
The recent displacement of the Multicultural Learning Community’s House Fellow Cheufeng Yang did not serve as a catalyst for this protest, but as the final straw in a long history of negligence, according to organizer Karissa Smaglick.
“In terms of the students of color and MLC residents, this is kind of like our tipping point in terms of [the university] denying us resources and continuing to limit our access to people we can depend on,” Smaglick said.
The intention was not only to bring justice for Yang, according to organizers, but to bring awareness to the issues that housing has imposed on students of color, particularly in the MLC.
“We are tired of waiting, we are tired of meeting with people and having anything that is said or promised in a meeting not going beyond that meeting,” Smaglick said. “We’re tired of it. We want action to be taken.”
Meredith McGlone, director of News and Media Relations at UW-Madison, stated the university followed protocol by removing Yang from the MLC, but remains in support of the work that the MLC does.
“We want to be clear that the MLC plays a vital role within University Housing and the broader campus community in centering underrepresented students and raising awareness among majority students,” McGlone said. “We support this important work and will meet with MLC residents to discuss ways to move forward.”
Freshman Juliet Chang, along with a multitude of other students, gave a testimonial on what the MLC means to her.
“Coming to the MLC and meeting Cheufeng…for the first time, my feelings were put first and validated,” Chang said. “I was me before my race, but I was still in a place where I was comfortable enough to talk about it. That is not because of housing’s efforts, that is not because of UW’s efforts, that is because of Cheu.”
Students who do not live on the MLC floor in Witte Residence Hall testified to the importance of having intentional spaces for the students of color, specifically the MLC.
Tatiana Williams, a freshman who did not live on Yany's floor spoke on how they and the MLC affected her ability to feel comfortable on campus.
“Cheu told me that this space was created for students like me,” Williams said. “That I should feel comfortable on a campus that was intended to make me feel uncomfortable.”
Yang was not in attendance since they are still under disciplinary investigation because students reported that them and their white peers did not feel comfortable on the floor because of the community values they had instilled last week.
The university recently confirmed that residents in the MLC were told to limit who they invite to visit them based on race.
“This was not appropriate – residents have the right to invite whatever visitors they wish, regardless of their background/identity,” McGlone said. “We have taken the appropriate action to address this and to ensure that the MLC provides a supportive environment to students.”
UW-Madison is committed to investigating and addressing these concerns properly, ensuing that the investigation is fair and operates consistently, according to McGlone.
“I do say that the MLC is an intentional space for people of color but I’m not saying that white students are not allowed,” Yang said. “I’m saying that if they do come around they need to be aware of their privileges and they need to come educated.”
After Yang was displaced, McGlone stated that several complaints had been filed saying that students were told to limit who they invite to visit them based on race.
“We want to be clear that neither race nor any other form of background/identity shall be used as a basis to determine who residents may invite to visit them,” McGlone said. “Discrimination is counter to our values as an institution. In addition, federal and state law prohibit the university from discriminating in its programs and services based on race.”
Yang was displaced from their residence in Witte Residence Hall Tuesday morning after receiving two hours of notice. They were placed in temporary housing in Ogg Residence Hall until the investigation has been concluded.
According to Chang, it is common knowledge that a multitude of students signed up to live in the MLC to ensure their place in Witte Residence Hall.
“There’s lots of people that like being on my floor because it’s a safe space for people of color and personally as a person of color I feel very at home here because everyone either understands very similar experiences of being targets of racism or we just understand each other and what it’s like to be a person of color on a primarily white campus,” Chang said. “But at the same time there are individuals who don’t get that message and they don’t like having to see it and because of that they do not like our House Fellow who’s trying to make this a safe space for people of color.”
The Multicultural Learning Community is an intentional space where people of color can feel safe and have a comfortable space on campus, similar to the Red Gym, according to Yang.
“The goal and the vision that I have had for the MLC and a lot of MLC residents have is to make it a space where students of color can feel safe, where they can thrive and where they can get away from the rest of campus,” Yang said. “But it’s also a space where they can dive into social justice, where they can unpack what it means to be anti-black and they can challenge white privilege and they can challenge sexism and all those things.”
Residents of the MLC were not informed of the displacement of their House Fellow until after they had emailed administration requesting information on Cheufeng’s disciplinary investigation.
“Cheu has instrumentally been the largest reason that me and so many of my friends on my floor feel comfortable on this campus because of the hard work and dedication that she puts into creating a floor where we can have a sense of community and a home away from home,” Chang said. "That is under-appreciated and undervalued.”Subscribe to The Daily Cardinal Newsletter