Associated Students of Madison hosted an open forum regarding issues of campus diversity Monday night.
As a part of the Shared Governance Week of Action, a panel of campus leaders working on diversity issues answered questions and concerns voiced by students.
“Tonight’s panel was really able to hear student concerns,” ASM Press Office Assistant Courtney Jackson said. “ASM saw roughly 50 students at the diversity and climate forum, and many of them proposed questions and concerns.”
Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Joanne Berg said that in admissions, one of the objectives is to have a diverse student body at University of Wisconsin.
Berg said students should be able to be prepared to interact with all different kinds of people.
“If you’re here as a student at the university you should really be getting an education in what the world is going to be like,” Berg said.
Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Climate Damon Williams said the university faces many challenges when attempting to diversify.
Williams said one of the problems UW faces is that as a flagship school, the university has a responsibility to students who come from Wisconsin. However, Williams said the university also wants to attract a more diverse student body from out of state, as well as internationally.
“As an institution, we have a responsibility to balance both of these missions,” Williams said. “How are we going to be a global, world-class research university that is going to attract great students from all over the world, when at the same time we have a responsibility and a mission to the sons and daughters of Wisconsin”?
Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Campus Center Gabe Javier spoke at the forum about how the university can move forward with future diversity programs.
Javier said the university needs to focus not only on the future of diversity programs, but also specific issues and experiences students are facing right now.
“We have to be able to look forward and say, ‘What does diversity look like in the future of this institution?’ and also know that there are specific real-time experiences of students of color, of the LGBTQ community, international students and veterans,” Javier said.
Williams also said system accountability was necessary to strengthen the university’s Diversity Plan.
Williams said at the individual and institutional levels, to ensure accountability, there needs to be both consequences and incentives for departments involved in the Diversity Plan.
“All the ideas and the tools are out there,” Williams said. “A major part of this plan is ensuring that we actually do these things over time.”
Berg added there is not a culture of accountability on the UW campus. Rather, there is a culture of people being independent, she said.
Berg said to ensure accountability is going to require conversations and discussions at every level within the university.
“We need to be asking questions in a positive light,” Berg said. “We need to be asking, ‘What’s the gap, and how are we going to close it?'”