UW-Madison class supported by some as lawmakers express concern - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UW-Madison class supported by some as lawmakers express concern

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MADISON (WKOW) -- It's a class that will be offered spring semester of 2017 and it's titled,"The Problem of Whiteness." It's jarring to some, but to others the boldness of the name is welcomed.

"I think it definitely needs to be this bold," said Michael Davis, a PhD student at UW-Madison. 

The class comes after a year full of several racial incidents on campus.

"This campus is not safe, for various reasons," he added. 

The class description reads in part, "After all, since white supremacy was created by white people, is it not white folks who have the greatest responsibility to eradicate it? Our class begins here."

"It's not vague or arbitrary. It's specifically focusing in on whiteness, and that's necessary to understand how our social and political systems work," Davis said when talking about his interest in taking the course. 

But not everyone is on the same page, including republican State Representative Dave Murphy of Greenville. 

"I think when you name a course something like this, it's very polarizing," Murphy said. 

He believes UW-Madison is a place where dialogue and discussions should take place, but believes this particular title and class is a step in the wrong direction. 

"When you name a course "The Problem of Whiteness," you're framing the discussion before it's even had," he said. 

Davis says he doesn't think that's the case. He realizes UW-Madison has a long way to go, but added there are lessons from this course that can be meaningful for a campus that's seen a number of racial incidents in 2016.

"I think the people who take the course will definitely have a deeper understanding of how racism works and how it intersects with other things like gender, class, sexuality," Davis added. 

Representative Murphy said the class's title could potentially affect white donors and tax payers who give money to UW-Madison. However, Davis believes donating isn't enough when a population feels unwelcomed. Instead, he urges them to step in and act.

Meantime, UW-Madison officials sent out a statement defending the class saying, "The course title refers to the challenge of understanding white identity and non-white identity across the globe. We believe this course, which is one of thousands offered at our university, will benefit students who are interested in developing a deeper understanding of race issues. The course is a challenge and response to racism of all kinds." It went on to say, "the course is not required."

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