Following violent incidents, UW System requests civility among students

Bullying and school violence have been highlighted everywhere this year, from the scenes of “Glee” to the national news surrounding the suicide of Tyler Clementi.

The University of Wisconsin System has been affected as well, and now its leadership is taking action.

Prompted by a series of violent acts on campuses around the state, the chancellors of UW schools sent out an open letter asking for civility among the students last week.

“At times like this, we must recommit ourselves to a shared sense of civility,” an excerpt read. “Everyone has a right to his or her opinion, and everyone else has a right to challenge that opinion … Nobody has a right to engage in abusive behavior, and we each have an obligation to challenge that kind of conduct whenever it occurs on our campus or in our communities.”

There have been several serious incidents this semester alone.

On Sept. 23, a University of Wisconsin-Stout student was murdered at a tavern by two university hockey players. There was also an episode of anti-gay violence at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater on Nov. 7. A female student wearing a T-shirt promoting the legalization of gay marriage was assaulted by a pair of unknown suspects.

Following a series of LGBT suicides in the Fox Valley area, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells sent out a campus-wide letter asking for civility. UW-Oshkosh will host a conference entitled “Civility in Everyday Life” from Feb. 22 to 24.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, however, has remained relatively safe.

“We are very blessed that we’ve not had any incidents this fall as other campuses have,” said Tom Luljak, the vice-chancellor of university relations and communications at UW-Milwaukee. “We have had a longstanding commitment to diversity … UWM is the most diverse in the UW system, so we have a long tradition of having a campus community that reflects the surrounding community, which is a tremendous asset at UWM.”

But not all students say they feel completely safe, knowing that the possibility of violence always exists.

“I don’t like walking around campus at night,” said Marin Herbert, a junior at UWM.  “I’ve seen stupid drunk boys harassing girls, and we constantly get e-mails about break-ins or armed robberies, so I don’t even feel safe in my own home.”

Safety varies from campus to campus, and gender may also play a role.

“No, I can’t think of a time when I felt unsafe walking on campus, but I am a guy,” said Phil Deisinger, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “There’s some drunk shouting and not very much violence, but the occasional fight breaks out.”