Guest speaker cites ‘white rage’ in 2010 elections

Student captures controversial comments by guest speaker

March 5, 2014

By Alexandria Zamecnik

 

A speaker whose comments stirred up controversy in a general education class has pushed the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater into the national spotlight.

Former Milwaukee county supervisor Eyon Biddle was secretly recorded while speaking to a GenEd 130 class. It was posted to multiple social media accounts.  Campus Reform was the first site to make it public.

In the video, Biddle is heard talking about the 2010 Wisconsin Senate Elections. Watch the video here

Eyon Biddle
Eyon Biddle

“The context of 2010 was white rage, to be honest with you,” Biddle said. “White people having to pay for healthcare for blacks, browns and gays, racism with the first black president like you saw.”

Biddle said Wisconsin districts began to become more white and more Republican.

University employees may not engage in political campaign activities, may not use state resources to engage in political campaigning and may not solicit contributions or services for a political purpose from other university employees while they are engaged in their official duties, according to UW System policy.

Monique Liston, a lecturer in the Women’s Studies Department at UW-Whitewater, was responsible for bringing in a variety of guest speakers to address the topics they are studying. Biddle was brought in to speak on power and politics.

Liston said she fosters a respectful and safe learning environment. She said her class is a great place to take risks.

“I invited Eyon to speak to my class because of his extensive experience in state and local politics,” Liston said. “We talked beforehand about our classroom topics and readings on power and politics, highlighting that he should share some of his own experiences. Eyon is an engaging speaker and connects really well with young people.”

Liston said she encourages all of her students to be critical of him and to challenge him.  She said she hopes to create an engaging classroom experience and discussion.

The core of Liston’s classroom is to critically engage and challenge viewpoints.

“We should feel compelled to challenge each other, re-evaluate our own viewpoints and be ready to discuss them with others,” Liston said. “That is the expectation for every class period, and I am proud that my students have been very good at doing exactly that each and every semester.”

Freshman and political science major, Kyle Brooks recorded the lecture on his cell phone and sent the video to media outlets. He appeared on Fox News nationally on March 1 to discuss the events that happened.

“I was shocked and disheartened that such a radical person could speak to impressionable students,” Brooks said.

Brooks is currently serving as the secretary for the UW-Whitewater College Republicans.

Brooks said Biddle’s statements about the Republican party being racist and calling Walker’s voters racist, caught him off guard.

“It makes me sad that this man would want to polarize politics and accuse Republicans of racism,” Brooks said. “Every Republican I know is not racist and is tolerant of everybody they meet. They believe in equality for all, and they would vote for anyone regardless of their race.”

Chair of the UW-Whitewater College Democrats, Jonathan Fera, said his personal reaction to the speaker was he is a man who comes from an area of the state where race is a prominent problem.

“Whether what Biddle said is aligned with your own ideology or not, he offered a viewpoint shared by others and should be looked at as such, rather than as a liberal bias on the UW-Whitewater campus,” he said.

The College Democrats stand with any individual’s right to free speech, in the pursuit to further intellectual conversation on this campus, Fera said.

“While the Democratic Party publicly opposes the policies instilled by Governor Walker and the Republican Party, the goal of higher education is to offer multiple viewpoints rather than just one,” Fera said. “Biddle offered a passionate testimony about the state of Wisconsin politics, but the other side should be given the same opportunity.”

Chair of the College Republicans Madeline Walton said she was shocked when she first saw the video. Her organization shared a similar reaction.

“Obviously as Republicans, we are upset with some of the things he said,” Walton said. “As an education major, my personal point was that there was no counter argument.”

Chancellor Richard Telfer asked David Travis, Dean of the College of Letters & Sciences, to look into the situation.

Travis said Liston understands she needs to present both sides of an issue, and she will discuss the events of  Feb. 24 with her class.

Travis has been asked to further monitor the situation.

“When instructors bring controversial speakers into the classroom, it is important that they provide sufficient time for the class to discuss the topics presented as well as alternative viewpoints,” Travis said.  “Sometimes it is difficult to do this in a single class period.”

Brittany Gonzales, a student in the class, said Biddle seemed very passionate about what he was talking about.

“He seemed to really care about what the next generation is going to do in politics,” Gonzales said. “He told us that the system was screwed up, and there are people doing pointless things in office while not giving attention to any real problems.”

Gonzales said she hopes everyone could put their political viewpoints aside for an hour and at least get some sort of value from his speech, even if they only agreed with a small part of what he said.

After repeated requests for comment, Biddle did not respond in time for publication.

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