The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is taking a deep look at its athletic department following recent racist Snapchat messages that resulted in the suspension of five football players.
The university held a press conference Monday to announce that a third-party representative will conduct an investigation into the athletic department, according to the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. The school also announced the creation of a Rapid Action Task Force for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion that will work to identify actions the university can take to improve the campus climate.
“These past couple of weeks have been a difficult time for our athletic department,” Eau Claire athletic director Dan Schumacher said Monday, three weeks after the racist messages were shared publicly. “This is an important first step in moving forward.
"The racist imagery posted was reprehensible and not consistent with our values at all. In order to ensure our department is living the mission of equity, diversity and inclusion I’ve requested to have a third party undertake an independent review of our athletic programs."
Chancellor James Schmidt said that school officials will select a third-party investigator from a list of recommendations he has received.
"Unfortunately, we know that they will happen in the future," Schmidt said of racist incidents, according to Wisconsin Public Radio. "We are a reflection of society. Racism is a global problem. It certainly exists across this country. As a reflection of society we hope to become a better reflection of society through our efforts."
"Most of the people on this campus are not racists. But because of a lack of knowledge and understanding may say or do things that are hurtful and painful for people in a more diverse community.”
The school had a pair of high-profile incidents during first semester. In September, a note posted on a dorm room door told a student who is Red Lake Ojibwe to “go back to the rez” and included a racial slur. The Nov. 20 Snapchat incident involving the football team mocked a campus Black Male Empowerment, referencing a non-existent White Male Empowerment group and using a picture of Klu Klux Klan members and a burning a cross.
“For all who can’t make the BME meeting, (name deleted) and I are holding WME tonight at 7,” a message reads.
“I’ll be there but I’ll be like 5 minutes late. Think the cross will still be burning? Don’t wanna miss that again,” said another message.
The Blugolds went 3-7 this fall in the first year under head coach Wesley Beschorner.
“There’s a little empathy because he’s a first-time head coach, but he’s a strong leader and knows this is a serious situation,” Schumacher said of Beschorner. “It is on his watch and he’s taking this very seriously, as is the whole coaching staff.
“I expect every coach, every team, every student athlete, to embrace the equity, diversity and inclusion goals our campus community has outlined. Our entire department is committed to excellence, and our EDI goals are critical to our success. We are fully ready to embrace this program review.”