Homecoming Video to Students: “You Are Not Wanted”

Earlier this week a student group linked to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Homecoming Committee launched a homecoming video in which they celebrated being “in a state of Wi” (an obvious play on words for the abbreviation of the state of Wisconsin). However, the video seemed to lack any minority representation, with all but one or two students shown in the video being white. Senior Payton Wade reported that video shot as part of the project that she was involved with wasn’t used in the final video, even though she was assured that it would be. Wade said in social media posts that she and other members of the historically black sorority she is a part of, the Epsilon Delta Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, were asked to participate in the video. “Not only did we tell them what we thought home was but we also took hours out of our day to film as well and were told we would be in the video and notified when it was completed,” she said. “Being Black at this school is a daily struggle both mentally and physically,” Wade explained. “It is hard to have pride for a school where you know you are not wanted and where they obviously do not consider this our home as well.”

Student reaction was swift. Anthony Wright, a 2015 graduate of UW-Madison said in a tweet, “Y’all can’t hire folks who are doing the editing and outreach that maybe share some of the identities missing from this video who could call out how this missed the mark? Is your staff diverse? Even if they aren’t, shouldn’t we be able to see this video isn’t?” Interestingly, a voiceover in the video claims, “we represent 127 countries and all 50 states. We have broken barriers, made changes and can say that home is forever and always where we are.” The university’s Homecoming Committee issued an apology (shown below), but pulled the video from its social media accounts.

Screen Shot 2019-10-02 at 1.38.41 PM

This case recalls the UW-Madison 2001 admissions  brochure in which an African-American student was Photoshopped into an image of white students attending a game at the university’s stadium. What is it that leads to, as former student Wright asks, this video “not being called out” presumably in the production process before it even gets launched? How is this video similar to the 2001 brochure case? In what ways is it different?

Sources: dailymail.co.uk; nbcnews.com

Does the “Chilling” School Essentials Video Go Too Far?

The PSA below contains graphic content related to school shootings and may be upsetting to some viewers. If you feel this subject matter may be difficult for you, you may choose not to watch.

Sandy Hook Promise, a national nonprofit organization led by family members whose loved ones were killed in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, released a chilling PSA intended to educate viewers about the potential warning signs of school shootings. The PSA begins cheerfully enough––an apparent back-to-school school supply ad––but eerily turns frightening as the students in the ad, who are now defending themselves against an attack, continue to showcase typical back-to-school items such as scissors, colored pencils, socks, even a skateboard. The ad closes with a terrified girl in a dark restroom texting her mother, “I love you mom.”

The ad is clearly shocking. Nicole Hockley, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise and mother of Dylan who was killed in the Sandy Hook School shooting, said in a statement, “So far this year there have been over 22 school shootings, and with students heading back to school, it seems sadly probable that we will see more incidents. This is unacceptable, given that we have proven tools to prevent these acts from occurring. We cannot accept school shootings as the new normal in our country. Our goal with this PSA is to wake up parents to the horrible reality that our children endure. Gone are the days of viewing back-to-school as just a carefree time, when school violence has become so prevalent. However, if we come together to know the signs, this doesn’t have to be the case. I hope that parents across the country will join me to make the promise to stop this epidemic.”

The ad certainly gets a viewer’s attention. But does it accomplish its goal? Does it “wake up parents to the horrible reality that our children endure”? Ads that shock to get attention, particularly PSAs, are no stranger to Media Ethics Report: Some years ago we reported on a shocking “Don’t skip school” ad. What are the moral issues involved in producing ads like this?

Sources: Forbes.com; Sandy Hook Promise