In an effort to weigh possible reforms to the University of Wisconsin’s ethnic studies requirement, the Associated Students of Madison Diversity Committee announced plans for a roundtable event on campus.
The event, set for Union South on Feb. 18 at 7 p.m., will begin with a history and overview of the requirement, Diversity Committee Chair Mia Akers said. During this time, speakers will address how and why the requirement began and the associated historical issues, according to an ASM statement.
Afterward, Akers said First Wave Hip Hop and the Urban Arts Learning Community will host an open mic forum allowing stakeholders to discuss their personal experiences and opinions about the ethnic studies requirement.
The Diversity Committee will conclude the roundtable by distributing note cards to event attendees, asking them to share their feelings about the current ethnic studies requirement and what changes they would like to see, Akers added. After going through these note cards, she said the committee will forward their recommendations to the campus Diversity and Climate Committee.
Akers said she is optimistic the recommendations they receive from this event can impact the university’s new Diversity Plan, which will drafted by April.
“We really are hoping these discussions can inform the campus diversity plan, but as an ad hoc committee for ASM, we always are looking for more than just ethnicity in terms of diversity,” said Akers, who is a member of ASM’s Ad Hoc Diversity Plan Committee.
She added the event could be great if properly planned and executed.
Niko Magallon, a member of both ASM’s Student Council and Ad Hoc Diversity Plan Committee, said the ethnic studies requirement is significant to the new Diversity Plan because it is required for all students.
“The reason why ethnic studies is such a centerpiece here in this committee and also the new plan is that everybody has to take [a] class before they graduate,” he said.
Magallon added this work in revising the requirement is one of many opportunities the committee has to affect major change this semester leading up to the new plan’s release.
The fact diversity embodies a broader definition than simply ethnic studies is a flaw with the current requirement, Vice Chair Hannah Kinsella said.
“That sums up what’s wrong with the current ethnic studies requirement,” Kinsella said. “Most students think the requirement is limited to the Civil Rights Movement or immigration from Mexico. The ethnic studies requirement should include so much more about somebody’s identity as a person. It needs a new name in my mind.”
ASM spokesperson Courtney Jackson said she has contacted only registered student organizations under the “cultural/ethnic” category at this point to invite them to the roundtable. Still, Jackson added the event is open to everyone.
Grace Fondow, a UW senior and member of Latina-based sorority Sigma Lambda Gamma, said it may be difficult to get a good showing at the ethnic studies roundtable event.
“I think it could be effective,” she said. “The problem is it’s really hard to get people to go to things like that. The people who care about it and have room in their schedule to go will go to it, but the majority of people who don’t really have a strong opinion either way won’t be there.”