A residence hall employee at the University of Wisconsin Madison is on paid leave after telling residents “Don’t bring too many white students around.”
According to NBC-15, the employee is Chuefeng Yang of the Multicultural Learning Center for Witte Residence Hall.
Yang, who uses plural pronouns, said they are “typically vocal about topics of race,” and added they view engaging in “uncomfortable” conversations on race as part of their “unofficial job description” as a “community leader.”
“I [sic] say things like ‘Don’t bring too many white students around,’” Yang said. “It’s not to say white students are not allowed here. But it’s just to say, ‘Let’s make sure we’re protecting the intentionality of this space.’”
University spokesperson Meredith McGlone said an investigation confirmed the allegations.
“Recently a number of MLC residents reported that in conversations and at a floor meeting, they were told to limit who they invite to visit them based on race,” McGlone wrote in an email to NBC-15. “An investigation confirmed that this happened and University Housing is working on the appropriate responses.”
For Yang, a personal struggle with university officials revealed an even bigger problem.
“For so long, students of color on this campus have been begging and complaining and emailing and rioting and protesting for their needs to be met and yet for some reason, when five to six white students complain, all of a sudden it results in a person of color being removed from a space,” they said.
Yang wished the university had brought students together to talk.
“Is it truly that they’re so uncomfortable around me they don’t feel safe, or is it just that they’re uncomfortable because for the first time in their life, their whiteness and their white privilege is being challenged?”
Yang said they were told not to reach out to students while the investigation is ongoing.
McGlone said “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. Discrimination is counter to our values as an institution.”
Perhaps Yang could make a case for their actions based on at least one of the Multicultural Learning Center’s (Communities) stated goals: “Examine the dynamics of current power structures and how life experiences are shaped by factors at the individual, societal, institutional and structure levels.”
IMAGE: Koldunova Anna / Shutterstock.com
UPDATE: The post has been amended to clarify statements made by the UW-Madison spokesperson.