By Thomas E. Mitchell, Jr.
Responding to criticism from Milwaukee’s Black community on social media and Black talk radio, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will discontinue a controversial ad campaign depicting university students of color wearing yellow police crime scene tape.
“It was never anyone’s intent to offend or diminish the impact of violence in our community,” read a statement released Monday from the university, after news of the ads first broke on Sunday. “We recognize now that the approach was inappropriate, and we sincerely apologize. We are removing the ads from circulation and will not use them again.”
In the ad, a smiling Black student holds what appears to be a notebook and papers. Around her neck—draped like a scarf—is yellow “Do Not Cross” police tape. The tag-line in the ad reads: “Take a course you’ll never forget.”
The ad was part of a series created by UWM’s Helen Bader School of Social Welfare to encourage students to enroll in the school’s introductory criminal justice class.
According to the university’s statement, the ad series included students of different races and ethnicities, and police tape was used as a prop in an effort to add interest to the photos. The students the school worked with on the ad agreed with the approach.
The community became aware of the ad campaign earlier in the week via a Facebook post, showing what is known as a “cling ad” attached to a window inside the UWM Student Union. The campus exterior is showing behind it. The controversial ad reportedly went up last Friday.
“A Black woman with police tape around her neck for advertisement, huh?” asked the woman who, it is believed, initially posted the photo on her Facebook page. “Who thought this would be a good idea, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee? Please explain. This needs to come down.
On Facebook Sunday and on a morning drive talk show on radio station WNOV AM, hosted by Michelle Bryant on Monday, community residents blasted the university for the ad, calling it everything from “a hot mess” and “bad optics,” to “poor taste” and an “incredibly bad idea.” “Another Facebook respondent called it, “a no (non) verbal insult” to the Black community.