After a preliminary draft of the new campus diversity plan was released last week, students have voiced concerns regarding its vague language and lack of accountability.
The draft, created by the University of Wisconsin Ad Hoc Diversity Planning Committee, outlines a variety of recommendations, with an emphasis on accountability for the university to develop programs and policies related to diversity and building an inclusive community.
AHDPC co-chairs Ryan Adserias and Ruth Litovsky emphasized the draft was not complete, refined or final. This draft is a “jumping off point” for administrators and shared governance committees to amend, change and shape the final plan, Adserias said.
Litovsky said she has concerns about the preliminary draft and the constituents’ reactions to it.
“My concerns are primarily related to making sure that all voices are heard and respected, and represented,” Litovsky said.
Jessica Behling, Associated Students of Madison Diversity Committee chair, said she is happy progress has been made on the diversity plan but is disappointed about the vagueness of its language. She said she has heard no solid ideas on how to ensure changes would be made.
Behling said the Diversity Committee discussed the plan at its meeting last week, specifically the climate and culture portion of the draft. Behling said members raised concerns the ethnic studies requirement was being left out and some members felt the requirement was being watered down.
Representatives also said they were concerned that the whole document was geared toward undergraduates and excluded graduate students.
While the draft provides many examples of accountability, Behling said it did not include how, when or by whom assessments would be done. She said she felt the draft did not address the diversity needs on campus and only provided examples.
Behling said she would like to see more tangible recommendations in the final draft and more mandated requirements rather than those listed as optional.
ASM Chair David Gardner agreed and said it is necessary to have specific measures to train and prepare campus recommendations. He said the current draft does not show clear or recommend specific changes to diversity on campus.
“We need the plan to be something concrete,” Gardner said. “We can’t expect campus to take optional training, it needs to be mandated.”
Haley Frieler, president of the Members from Advocates for Diverse Abilities, said the draft is headed in the right direction at the Diversity Committee meeting.
“We were specifically coming to make sure that people with disabilities were being equally as represented as minority groups are in the draft,” Frieler said. “I think it’s going in a good direction and I think with our input it will go in an even stronger direction for people with disabilities on campus.”
Litovsky said she believes diversity plans fail when people are not taking the responsibility assigned to them seriously. The individuals charged with the responsibility of implementing the plan should ensure action is being taken and changes are happening, she said.
Litovsky said not all issues were addressed in the draft because the work of diversity is so deep.
“I am eager to ensure the success of the diversity work through proper implementation and accountability mechanisms. And it is very important that the work become shared responsibility,” Litovsky said.
Adserias said he hopes conversations about the draft with UW administrators and shared governance committees will spur changes to it. It is important to make sure the draft is doing what the people want it to do, he said.
Litovsky said she hoped to see greater mobilization of efforts, interests and resources towards embracing the recommendations in the draft.
The committee will hold listening sessions throughout the semester before revisiting the draft and implementing the final version in the summer.
Courtney Clemmons contributed reporting to this article.