The Associated Students of Madison kicked off its year with an orientation geared towards the recruitment of minority students to student government positions.
As part of the Multicultural Orientation Networking Empowerment Week sponsored by the University of Wisconsin, the orientation sought to spread recognition of ASM and its programs among minorities.
“This meeting is about getting the message out to minorities,” ASM chair Jessica Miller said. “Come work for us. We can only work when you participate, and we want to work for you.”
While turnout at the orientation was low, Miller said a high number of students are interested in joining forces with ASM to make UW a more diverse place.
“I wasn’t really upset with the turnout,” Miller said, blaming mostly the timing and weather. “We talked to a lot of students who are really interested.”
ASM also continues to work on a campaign to educate students about Plan 2008, the diversity initiative taken by UW, which states such goals as improving minority representation and campus climate and increasing the understanding of minority groups by the majority students.
Concerned with the lack of involvement by minorities at UW, ASM is making it a goal to draw a larger proportion of minorities into student-run affairs.
“For the caliber-one research institution that this is, we are sadly lacking in diversity,” ASM Vice Chair Carl Camacho said.
This semester, ASM’s Diversity Committee is most concerned with improving the campus climate, educating the student body on racism and sensitivity and mentoring for local high school students. The group also plans to organize several multicultural events, including hosting the Building Unity Conference, which is the state’s largest multicultural affairs conference.
The Diversity Committee is also hiring five liaisons to help minority students deal with some of the campus issues.
“We have liaisons every year,” Miller said. “They serve a dual purpose: to act as liaisons from the ASM council to the communities they represent and also to serve as liaisons from those communities back to us.”
The liaisons will represent students of color, women, women of color, LGBT students and LGBT students of color.
“It would be pretty hard for us to represent all the students on campus if we didn’t have these liaisons,” Miller said.
The liaisons will be working on projects like the hosting of a women’s anti-racism summit, attempting to create an LGBT studies program, creating a monthly group meeting for women of color, working with LGBT to promote a better climate in the dorms and working on the funding and implementation of Plan 2008.
“Our main goal is probably reeducation — not just the student population but also ourselves,” said Jennifer Epps, co-chair of the Diversity Committee. “Try to step out of our own box.”
Epps wants to concentrate on outreach communication this year. She said some of the biggest racial issues UW faces are recruitment and retention of students of color.
“Our biggest problem is the incomplete, culturally incompetent education students receive. School in general, from kindergarten on, teaches white supremacy,” she said. “And the majority of the population on this campus walks around with blinders on, refusing to recognize the various issues going on regarding underrepresented students.”