If the University of Wisconsin’s approximately 40,000 students condensed into only 200, 11 of those students would be Asian, six would be black, six would be Latino, one would be Native American and the remaining 176 would be Caucasian.
With these statistics in mind, students and faculty members talked in a forum Monday about the need for students to gain an education intermixed with diversity, literally kicking off the night with a martial arts narrative and interpretive break-dance collaboration.
The Associated Students of Madison Diversity Committee joined with the MultiCultural Student Coalition to put on the event, called “In the Wake: Plan 2008” during their hip-hop conference, which began last week.
MCSC Financial Specialist Jamie Yancovitz said they named the event “In the Wake” because it reflected on the need to surge forward in ensuring diversity at UW after the failure of Plan 2008, a 10-year diversity initiative that concluded in the fall of 2008.
MCSC stresses the entire campus must rally around a comprehensive shift toward inclusive diversity so every student can receive an education with a world-class college experience, accoriding to Steven Olikara, chair of the ASM Diversity Committee.
“We have to realize that the world we live in is as interconnected as it’s ever been,” Olikara said. “We need an education that not only builds skills to be successful but also the competency to be successful in a global environment.”
Olikara said he has had students come up to him and say UW does not really need to increase its diversity, a perspective he does not blame them for having because of UW’s lagging diversity education programs.
Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer Damon Williams spoke about inclusive excellence, the new directive of creating and keeping diversity at the university.
Intertwining excellence and diversity, this new framework says UW cannot be an excelling university without a unique mixture of cultures and experiences within the students and staff, Williams said.
Differing from past 10-year plans, inclusive excellence is meant to spark conversation among students and faculty — not lay out a strict format for goals — in a five-year process with checkpoints along the way. This is the only type of program, according to Williams, that can work in the 21st century.
According to Williams, UW has worked under the strict guidelines of a plan to achieve diversity for so long people feel as if they have no agency or ability to act outside of the confines of a plan — the antithesis to hip-hop culture and authenticity.
“We need a common message that is reflected across the campus,” Olikara said. “I encourage all of you to take some risks and set the example that we need to take the lead in diversity initiatives.”