In a Homecoming Video Meant to Unite Campus, Almost Everyone Was White

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Lori Reesor, a top university official, has an office inside Bascom Hall, in a sunny room with a bowl of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups that she offers to visitors.

Since the homecoming video episode began, Ms. Reesor had been at the center of the university’s response. She and the university’s chief diversity officer, Patrick Sims, have met with student leaders and listened to their proposals for how the university could be more welcoming to students of color. Given the nature of a college campus, she said later, it is work that repeats itself.

Lori Reesor, the vice chancellor for student affairs, who is white: With students, every year there’s 8,000 new ones, and it’s all brand-new, and so we have to start it again. They just got here. This is a new day. It’s a reminder of, every day is a new day for somebody on our campus.

In an interview, Mr. Sims said the university had tried and failed to attract more African-American students in a state where 6.7 percent of people are black. According to university data, 959 undergraduates in the fall of 2019 identified as African-American; some of those students said they were African-American as well as Hispanic or another race or ethnicity. Qualified students often choose to leave Wisconsin, Mr. Sims said, finding other places more hospitable. (Among the more than 30,000 undergraduates at the University of Wisconsin, about 2,200 are Asian and 1,700 are Hispanic, according to federal data.)

Patrick Sims, deputy vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer, who is African-American: They don’t want to come to Wisconsin. Not because Wisconsin isn’t a great institution but because the state writ large over all has challenges.

That Friday afternoon, the protest was complete, the crowds had drifted away, and a handful of students who represented S.I.C. gathered in front of Abraham Lincoln.

In Madison, the statue — known simply as Abe — is a watchful, benevolent presence on top of the hill, a landmark and meeting place. After graduation, it is tradition to hoist yourself onto the statue, wearing a cap and gown, and pose for a triumphant picture on Abe’s lap.

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