To the students of UW-Madison:
In the spring of 2015, Madison and our campus community struggled to understand the tragic shooting of Tony Robinson in the context of the killing of many young, black lives across our nation. Racism and its effects are issues that affect many communities across the country and UW-Madison is not immune.
In the last several weeks, UW-Madison students have been targeted and assaulted by other students based on their race, religion, class, gender, and ethnicity. According to students, they were spat on where they live, mocked in places where they gather, and harassed in the bathroom.
These incidents are those we know about, most go unreported. Testimonials detailing microaggressions—brief and commonplace verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color or any marginalized group—have recently been shared on the #TheRealUW Twitter thread.
This behavior is pervasive on campus and the effects of racism and acts of hate can have a cumulative effect for some students. University Health Services (UHS) is dedicated to the health, safety, and well-being of the UW-Madison community and we acknowledge the feelings students may experience as a result of these incidents: rage, confusion, fear, frustration, hurt, and hopelessness. We call for open and critically-reflective dialog that leads to decisive action on the context of race and discrimination that frames these recent events.
The UW-Madison drinking culture is omnipresent and higher-risk than other universities. Data collected by UHS through a study last spring, “The Color of Drinking” showed that campus alcohol culture radiates implicit messages regarding who matters and who belongs. Students of color have higher rates of non-drinking yet experience many problematic consequences of their peers’ alcohol use. These consequences are magnified when students share living spaces. This psychological and behavioral climate impacts student opportunities and not addressing these issues compromises students’ success.
Here’s what we’re doing in Counseling & Consultation Services (C&CS) to better serve our students affected by these issues and many others:
- Drop-in Let’s Talk sessions are available at the Multicultural Student Center on Tuesdays from 9:30-11:30 am, International Student Services on Wednesdays in the Red Gym from 10 am-noon, the Center for Educational Opportunity every other Friday from 10 am-noon, and at Chicano and Latino Studies throughout the semester. No appointment is needed for any Let’s Talk session.
- UHS offers culturally-sensitive mental health services, education, training, and advocates for policy changes during these challenging times.
- We are working to increase our mental health staff over the next two fiscal years to serve students with weekly access to care (this plan is subject to approval by e Board of Regents).
- The Chancellor’s office will immediately fund two positions for student mental health issues related to diversity and campus climate. Recruitment for these positions is underway.
This does not mean that underrepresented students encounter more mental health issues, it means that reactions to racism and other social injustices are healthy responses to an unhealthy environment. If you are having difficulty, counseling or other community connections can help validate reactions and offer support. Reaching out is a sign of strength and one of the best strategies for dealing with this type of stress. If you are in need, please ask for help. We are here for you. You can access help in the following ways:
- Connect with support in your social circles and communities such as cohorts, department staff allies and/or places of worship. This type of support can complement any help you might seek in other venues.
- You can drop in to C&CS any time between 9 am – 4 pm, Monday through Friday.
- If you need immediate assistance after hours or on weekends, call the UHS Crisis Line at 608.265.5600, option 9.
- If you are having academic difficulties, please talk directly with your instructors.
- Assistance and support services are available by contacting the Dean of Students Office. You can drop in to Bascom (Room 70) or call 608.263.5700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or chat
- If you wish to have a counselor come to your group to provide support related to experiencing a critical event, please call UHS at 608.265.5600, option 2.