RIVER FALLS, Wis. (KMSP) - A spruced-up fitness center at a River Falls, Wis. middle school is set to be named after a generous donor with admirable intentions. Except it was accidentally kind of racist until Thursday morning.
Meyer Middle School’s fitness center was set to be called the “Roger T. White Pride Fitness room as presented by RCU (Royal Credit Union).” The “pride” portion of the title was born out of the initiative to raise money and thereby “build pride” by refurbishing the facility.
With the addition of Roger T. White's $15,000 bestowment came naming rights, but it appeared no one thought about what the name sounds like out loud.
In response to this article, the River Falls School District Superintendent announced the fitness room's new name will now contain an appropriately-placed hyphen and removal of the word, "pride."
"To prevent any future misunderstanding, the fitness center will be named and referred to as the 'Roger T. White Wildcat Fitness Room or the Roger T. White - Fitness Room as Presented by RCU,'" the release, said, in part.
"The River Falls School District has a demonstrated commitment to character education and takes seriously the responsibility to be inclusive and respectful of all people and groups of people. Any suggestion of racism, discrimination, or cultural insensitivity in the fitness room's title was wholly inadvertent."
In a local news article published Wednesday, fundraising committee member and Rocky Branch Elementary School principal Chuck Eaton said he's excited about the new name, and told the River Falls Journal he speculates it will be shortened to the “White Pride Fitness Room.”
The Superintendent's release clarified this, as well.
"To be clear, this 'room name' has never been nor will it ever be called, 'The White Pride Room.' We can see and understand how the new name, 'Roger T. White - Pride Fitness Room' could be viewed by some people as implying 'White Pride.' Clearly that was never the 'intent' of the community group, the White family, RCU, nor of the school district."
While Roger T. White, a member of the River Falls High School class of 1949, a University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School grad and basketball standout likely had wonderful intentions for the privately-funded, $100,000 facility, so far, the people of Facebook weren't amused:
Jewelz MacGruder: This is terrible. White Pride? Which culturally insensitive committee let this slide? So much for building an inclusive community. As an RF native, I can't begin to say how dissapointed I am.
Nikki Torres: The "White Pride fitness center?" Wow. So disappointing, River Falls.
Alice Lasar Olson: Please tell me this is an article from The Onion.
Full release from the River Falls School District
The following School District of River Falls press release is related to yesterday's Fox News story related to naming rights for a weight room as being culturally insensitive, discriminatory, and inappropriate.
The River Falls School Board recently renamed the "Meyer Middle School Pride Fitness Room" the "Roger T. White - Pride Fitness Room as Presented by RCU." The School Board took this step in gratitude and recognition of financial gifts from Royal Credit Union as well as the White family in memory of Roger T. White, a community member and River Falls High School alumnus. The White family has been generous in the River Falls community, including the gift of the White Pathway along the Kinnickinnic River.
The River Falls School District has a demonstrated commitment to character education and takes seriously the responsibility to be inclusive and respectful of all people and groups of people. Any suggestion of racism, discrimination, or cultural insensitivity in the fitness room's title was wholly inadvertent. To prevent any future misunderstanding, the fitness center will be named and referred to as the "Roger T. White Wildcat Fitness Room or the Roger T. White - Fitness Room as Presented by RCU."
In summary, a local group of caring, committed, ambitious, community members started a financial campaign and raised funds to replace 20 year old equipment in the weight room. We now have better equipment and a more safe environment.
The official Board approved name was, "The Roger T. White - Pride Fitness Room as presented by RCU" (Royal Credit Union). We are revising the name immediately.
To be clear, this "room name" has never been nor will it ever be called, "The White Pride Room". We can see and understand how the new name, "Roger T. White - Pride Fitness Room" could be viewed by some people as implying "White Pride". Clearly that was never the "intent" of the community group, the White family, RCU, nor of the school district.
We can also see we have an opportunity to clarify our district cultural awareness and sensitivity along with our responsibility to be reflective leaders. Regardless of our original intent, we are certainly using this opportunity to make sure our school district's beliefs, values, and morals are appropriately reflected in all we do. This is an opportunity to be very clear about our intentions and any related oversights, by taking appropriate actions.
The School District of River Falls is a reflection of our community's values. This community and this school district stand united in our understanding of the need for us to continuously display, live and role model our beliefs; we know our role in teaching our children about compassion, understanding, inclusiveness, acceptance, and tolerance.