Hundreds of University of Wisconsin students, faculty and staff gathered to explore diversity and climate issues at UW Monday.

The 2008 Diversity Forum is the first of a series of steps to evaluate and promote changes to UW’s efforts of recruitment and retention of diverse students, faculty and staff. Events included talks from several experts in the field, including diversity in the UW library system and an afternoon breakout session, in which presenters discussed how to engage in leadership to diversify the campus community.

University officials have been in talks over whether to renew Plan 2008, UW’s 10-year project to improve recruitment and retention of diverse community members. Talks stalled last year while UW searched for a new vice provost for diversity and climate, the person in charge of spearheading the process of renewing or eliminating the plan, which expires this year.

As Damon Williams, a nationally renowned leader in diversity efforts, assumed the job this fall, talks have once again begun over how to improve UW’s diversity.

Chancellor Biddy Martin closed the daylong event. She said though she hasn’t been on campus long enough to know all programs that affect campus diversity or climate, she wants to ensure UW focuses on exchange of cultures on campus instead of bringing diversity to campus but generating no dialogue.

“We are a plural people whose joint efforts are required to address the world’s problems,” Martin said. “Interactions are key to realizing our full potential as human beings and groups.”

She emphasized a need for diversity on campus to reflect higher diversity of a world heading deeper into globalization and called for an urgent need for collaboration and teamwork to advance UW’s diversity efforts.

“Everyone needs to recognize that excellence and progress in every front of the university require diversity of people and also of perspectives,” Martin added.

UW junior Omar Arreola attended some of the morning’s events, which featured speeches by Provost Patrick Farrell and professor Eduardo Bonilla-Silva of Duke University.

He noted there were many adults present to hear the speeches but very few students were present, something he blamed on the fact that the forum was held in the middle of the day.

“I don’t think there were as many students as there should have been since it was a weekday,” Arreola said. “I wanted to stay for the rest of it, but I couldn’t because I had class and a lot of school work to do.”

Though he could not attend the breakout sessions to discuss his views on campus race relations, Arreola told The Badger Herald many people in Madison view the discussion as “taboo, when it shouldn’t be.”

“This can and can’t at the same time be a welcoming environment to students of color,” Arreola said. “It sucks that it has to come up to chance that it’s not a regular welcoming environment to everyone.”