Eau Claire athletics program to undergo outside review after racist incidents

    Eau Claire student walkout
    Students at UW-Eau Claire took part in a walkout and silent demonstration last month to protest racist incidents at the university. The demonstration was supported by the UW-Eau Claire administration. The university announced Monday, Dec. 9, a task force to address issues of inclusion and diversity. Photo courtesy of UW-Eau Claire website.

    Intercollegiate athletics at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will undergo an independent review by an outside agency after racist messages were circulated on campus among a group of university football players.

    University Chancellor James C. Schmidt announced the review Monday, along with the formation of a 16-member task force of students, faculty and staff to address diversity issues on the western Wisconsin campus.

    The Rapid Action Task Force for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) began meeting Monday. The group is charged with making recommendations to the chancellor by Jan. 31 “specific, immediate actions that can be implemented by the end of the current academic year,” the university said in a statement Monday.

    “Through our task force, we can commit to develop a culture, methods of communication and measures of accountability that will support our students, staff and faculty of color and engage consequences when wrongdoing occurs,” said Jan Larson, faculty co-chair of the task force, in a statement released by the university. 

    Larson also acknowledged that the campus could “do better” in responding to racist, homophobic or sexist incidents.

    “Racism continues to be an endemic problem in our country, and college campuses are not immune to this reality,” Schmidt said in the university statement. “This rapid action task force is a cross-section of our campus community, people who are dedicated to creating an inclusive environment and finding solutions to problems. I look forward to reviewing their recommendations put forth in the next few months.”

    In addition to the task force, the university’s new vice chancellor for EDI and student affairs, Warren Anderson, is convening a team to map a long-term EDI plan, the university said. Anderson is to take office at the university Monday, Dec. 16.

    The outside review of the university’s intercollegiate athletic program was requested by UW-Eau Claire’s athletics director, Dan Schumacher, university officials said. 

    “Our students, faculty and staff shared their concerns with me following the racist social media post that came to light in November,” Schmidt said. “We must ensure our athletics department is fully aligned with the equity, diversity and inclusion goals of our campus community.”

    The organization conducting the review of the athletics program will be selected from among proposals submitted by outside organizations, the university said. The reviewing agency will report to Schmidt.

    Schumacher, in a university statement, called the outside review of the program “an important and necessary step,” and said he agreed with Schmidt “that the racist imagery posted on social media was reprehensible and not consistent with our values.”The university also released a statement from Schumacher in which the athletic director said, “The athletics department is committed to UW-Eau Claire’s equity, diversity and inclusion goals in all facets.”

    Erik Gunn
    Senior Reporter Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, along with related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.