That headline conflates a few things. The hashtag collects many individual tweets about thoughts and reports of incidents and perceived microaggressions and creates a picture that there is a big problem of racism on the UW–Madison campus.
Over a few days, messages using #TheRealUW were tweeted and retweeted thousands of times.That picture is a problem for the officials, quite aside from the real scope and depth of the racism here. The picture is real and alarming. The reality is something else, something harder to know about and easy to lose track of in the alarm about the picture the hashtag creates.
“#TheRealUW where the same kids who spend their entire college careers drunk, high, and failing will question if *you* ‘deserve’ to be there” posted @bradinn.
“No one on my floor would use the same toilet, sink, or shower stall I used #TheRealUW,” said @RuffinMcMuffin.
“#TheRealUW is wanting the same tuition from all students, yet expecting minorities to teach impromptu crash courses on racism free of charge,” said @betty_nen....
The real racism problem includes how the people who are using the hashtag actually feel, even if their perceptions are inaccurate. It's a big problem if some students feel they are hated, and the hashtag may cause or exacerbate that feeling even as it facilitates expression of the feeling and finding others who sympathize with you, which might make you feel better, either because you can see you are not alone or because you've vented or because you think those with some power might help you or at least have to feel bad about the way you feel bad.
What can the University do? It tries to use Twitter and, we're told, "is considered an adept user of Twitter":
As students of color told stories of discrimination on campus, UW-Madison used its Twitter accounts to express concern and willingness to listen. “We're listening to our students - please share your experiences with climate at UW-Madison to help us explore needed changes. #TheRealUW,” [Patrick Sims, UW-Madison chief diversity officer] posted on March 15....But, as one UW journalism student said:
“The way UW tweets really bothers me. One time they put on Twitter, ‘We hear you, we live this experience with you’... No you don’t. You’re lying to my face now. I live it.”...And:
Invoking UW-Madison’s mascot, Bucky Badger, as campus officials have done repeatedly, is a classic example of tailoring communications to boosters and legacy families, [said Karma Chavez, an associate professor in UW-Madison’s department of communication arts]. “That kind of rhetoric is scary to students of color,” because they know that the zeal of alcohol-fueled sports fans can set the stage for incidents of racial and sexual assault....There's no pat answer to any of this. Obviously, the school wants to preserve and improve its brand and anguishes over the harm done by the hashtag. This is life in social media, and it's part of life in the real world which is always only experienced subjectively by individuals inside their own minds where they try to understand what is happening to them and what other people are thinking about them and doing to them.