Campus Diversity Given Closer Look

· Sep 23, 2001 Tweet

U.S. News and World Report has become the latest entity to acknowledge UW-Madison’s lack of campus diversity.

Out of the 157 public schools the magazine surveyed, UW-Madison ranked in the bottom twentieth percentile for campus diversity.

The correlation between top public schools and diversity is striking. The ranking lists UW, the University of Iowa, Iowa State and the University of Vermont as the only institutions in the last twentieth percentile for campus diversity that are also ranked in the top 50 public schools. Peer schools such as the University of Michigan and the University of California-Berkeley are both well above the fiftieth percentile in the campus-diversity index.

The survey rated the schools based on a diversity index that included American Indians and Alaskan Natives, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, African-Americans who are non-Hispanic, whites who are non-Hispanic and Hispanics.

The Board of Regents addressed the issue at UW in 1998 by initiating Plan 2008, a blueprint marked with guidelines aimed at improving campus diversity over a 10-year timeframe.

“The actions recommended in the UW-Madison Plan 2008 are to achieve the goals of significantly improving the representation and academic success of members of four targeted ethnic groups, namely, American Indian, African-American, Latino/a, and Southeast Asian-American, among the student body, the faculty and the staff; to improve the classroom and social climate of this campus for those groups; and to increase the depth of understanding by the large majority of us who are not in those groups for their values, customs, and experiences,” David Ward, then Chancellor, said in a statement after the board adopted the plan.

Now that the plan is in its third year, its effectiveness is under scrutiny, and UW students have been the biggest critics of the plan. Associated Students of Madison Plan 2008 Chair Jason Davis said the main problems are the absence of both accountability and student involvement.

“The plan lacks accountability with objectives within schools and colleges,” Davis said. “There is no system of checks and balances to ensure that it’s goals are being met — especially with students. There is no shared program with students where they can oversee implementation of the plan.”

Jennifer Epps, ASM’s Diversity Committee chair, agreed that the lack of accountability is a major problem, and adjustments need to be made or the university will fall well short of its goals.

“The administration needs to do more than provide lip service to the issue and take some action,” Epps said.

She also said the recruitment and retention of undergraduate students of color is where the university fails most. Epps said that this can be attributed to under-funding of recruiting programs and lack of support systems for students of color on campus.

“Students of color that do come to Madison often leave because when they get here there is no network to support them with issues that a white student may not have to deal with,” Epps said.

Paul Barrows, co-chair of the Steering Committee for Plan 2008 and vice chancellor of student affairs, said that recruitment and retention of undergraduates has been a concern but that there has been success with other plan initiatives.

“In terms of recruiting faculty we have been doing quite well relative to our Big Ten cohorts,” Barrows said. “We do recognize problems with recruitment of undergraduate students, particularly African Americans and Native Americans. Overall, however, admissions have been up five to ten percent for the past ten years [for students of color].”

Barrows also referred to one initiative for aiding recruitment in Plan 2008, the Pre-College & Enrollment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence (PEOPLE). The program is a partnership with Milwaukee-area high schools aiming to strengthen and expand university-high school relations that enhance the academic preparation, retention and graduation of minority and disadvantaged students.

“We have seen success in building the pool of qualified students for recruitment through the PEOPLE program,” Barrows said. “This program should help us significantly in our recruiting efforts in the future.”

While administration is under fire for the execution of the Plan 2008 guidelines, members of student groups and administration agree the plan is admirable and provides the necessary framework from which to build upon and develop new initiatives.


This article was published Sep 23, 2001 at 12:00 am and last updated Sep 23, 2001 at 12:00 am


UW-Madison's Premier Independent Student Newspaper

All Content © The Badger Herald, 1995 - 2023