‘I don't really feel like there is a place for us’: UW student reacts following controversial homecoming video

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Just days before homecoming week is set to begin, the University of Wisconsin faces pushback following the release of a promotional homecoming video.

The 90 second piece focuses on the theme “Home is Where WI Are,” showing various students, organizations and famous campus hotspots. It premiered at the start of the week, but was taken down shortly after, when the university began to receive flak from students.

“As if being on a campus where you are unwanted and have to fight every day just to survive and make it isn’t bad enough,” said senior Payton Wade in a tweet sent on Monday. “@UWMadison is back at it again reminding us that we don’t belong here and that there is no room for Black students here. #SurvivingUW #HomeIsWhite #TheRealUW”

Wade’s tweet received hundreds of likes and shares, prompting the university to pull the video, and subsequently cancel multiple pre-scheduled interviews with NBC15 News.

As recent as Friday, our crews reached out to UW staff for an interview regarding the video. Reporters were told via email, “We are not scheduling any on-camera interviews at this time.” The email included a link to the university’s most recent statement, laying out efforts for future diversity inclusion. Click here to read the statement.

“Overall I would say I don't really feel like there is a place for us on campus,” Wade told NBC15 News in an interview Friday afternoon. “My freshman year I was considering transferring because I didn’t feel very welcome.”

Wade says she was “shocked” when she first saw the video.

“I realized it was actually a bigger thing, that there were no students of color in it,” she says. “That's when I decided to say something because it's representing home. It should show everybody who is here in on this campus."

About three weeks ago, the student Homecoming Committee approached Wade and her sorority to participate in the video. Members of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first African American sorority on campus, filmed in several locations around campus in different sequences.

Wade says video of her and Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority members did not appear in the final homecoming video. When she asked organizers why, she was told the lighting was not good enough to use.

“There's been a lot of different issues that have happened at UW-Madison. Some that people would consider worse than what happened here. So I think people are just tired of dealing with the same things over and over, getting the same apologies,” Wade says.

University of Wisconsin-Madison sophomore Samantha Zeid says she was also asked to be part of the video, with a group of tour guides. The video was taken down before she could see whether she was featured.

“It’s definitely true. There’s not a lot of diversity here. So in a way that does kind of reflect the school, [whether] that’s good or bad,” Zeid tells NBC15 News.

Zeid says she wishes the video, and campus as a whole, featured more diversity. Still, she’s unsure how to make the change.

“I feel bad for the people who feel like they weren't accurately portrayed as a community, but also … it frustrates me when universities Photoshop or pretend to be more diverse than they actually are,” she says. “I feel like that also would have been a criticism if they made it seem like we're super diverse and we aren't. So I'm not sure what the solution is."

Meanwhile, Wade says a solution could begin with changes from university staff.

“I would hope that they would include everyone and just be inclusive, because they always talk about diversity and inclusion and equity. To just stand by what they say,” she tells NBC15 News.

She also finds solace in places on campus that allow her to be herself.

“It’s little places on campus where I can sit there and really feel like I’m myself and not have to think about my race, and not have to think about people judging,” Wade says.

Representatives with the university say homecoming activities will continue as scheduled beginning on Sunday.