UW-Madison students and faculty gathered at the Pyle Center Saturday for the second Plan 2008 Student Campus Forum to discuss diversity issues.
Chancellor John Wiley and Vice Chancellor Paul Barrows were on hand to share in the discussion hosted by Generation 2008, a group committed to ensuring the implementation of all goals of Plan 2008 and informing other students about Plan 2008.
“[Plan 2008] is a plan in the whole UW system to increase the diversity of the campuses, in particular, targeted at different racial groups,” Gwen Drury, member of Generation 2008, said.
Generation 2008 stresses what the group considers a failure to include a diverse curriculum and population of students and staff at UW.
“Whether white students realize it or not, they are being cheated,” Wiley said. ?The white students who are not aware of [the lack of diversity] need to become aware of it.”
Patricia Kim, member of Generation 2008, said UW ranks last in the Big Ten in diversity and said after graduation, students will become more aware of that statistic. “Here at UW-Madison on campus, it can be kind of an isolated place, in our classes and with our friends, but when we go out to the real world, it is a diverse place.”
John Adams, a UW senior and member of Generation 2008, said he has seen Plan 2008 evolve since its inception in 1998.
“We are trying to increase awareness about this diversity plan that nobody seems to know about on campus,” Adams said.
Wiley said he agreed it would take some time for UW to reach levels of diversity similar to other large universities. But in a 10-year-plan, Wiley said most students are not going to be here long enough to see massive changes.
“These things don’t happen overnight. We are doing everything we can think of to diversify the student body,” he said.
Barrows said achieving diversity means overcoming the past.
“We have had 400 years of slavery, segregation and discrimination, but we have only had 40 years of trying to get it right,” Barrows said.
Generation 2008 members also urged students and student organizations to recognize what they consider the problem and to act upon it.
Wiley said one problem in particular at UW is assaults against minority students, particularly at the downtown bars.
“I don’t care what age the drinkers are,” Wiley said, “What I do care about is when people get so drunk that they get involved in assaults with various kinds of racial and ethnic backgrounds.”
Adams said it is important to voice opinions.
“People allow others to say racial slurs and be homophobic, Adams said. “They need to speak up. Silence shows support.”
Barrows said communication and cooperation among student organizations may be beneficial and is imperative to the education of students.
“The area that I especially want to do more with is how can we get students and student organizations working together,” Barrows said. “I think one of the best ways to promote that is through dialogue. Advancing diversity and self-enlightenment is something all of us need to be part of on campus.”