Several University of Wisconsin student organizations submitted a proposal to the Student Orientation, Advising and Registration Board of Directors Tuesday that, if passed, would require all incoming students to attend an educational meeting about diversity on campus.
The proposal stems from the Plan 2008 Committee, which focuses on recruiting and retaining more students of color as well as fostering environments where people can discuss diversity issues, according to committee chair and proposal organizer Jeff Wright.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Campus Center member Kevin Otten said each student who attends SOAR would take part in an hour and a half long session. The LGBT Campus Center will also have a role in the session. Students would watch a video compiled by current UW students in hopes to educate incoming students about diversity and social justice issues. After the video, Wright said students would break up into groups of 20 to 25 students to partake in several activities designed to make them aware and more accepting of people unlike themselves.
“It is very important that they know that this is a campus where there are many different kinds of people,” Otten said. “Those differences can be very enriching if they are explored.”
Otten added that for many incoming students it is the first time they are setting foot on campus and therefore it is essential that the session take place during SOAR.
“That is the very first time students are exposed to the university,” Otten said.
For many incoming students, a SOAR session on diversity might be the first time they are exposed to these kinds of issues, Otten said, so the organizations want the meeting to be as non-threatening as possible and serve as an opportunity for discussion and dialogue.
“[The session is] to have students thinking about these issues before they arrive on campus,” Wright said, “and be given the tools and resources that they can use to help further their understanding.”
Wright said the meeting with the SOAR Board of Directors went well and board members seemed to be “taken aback by our presentation.”
The SOAR Board of Directors has two weeks to debate the proposal before accepting or rejecting the plan.