In an attempt to push University of Wisconsin officials to act on their diversity and inclusion rhetoric, Associated Students of Madison passed legislation Wednesday calling on the administration to re-evaluate admissions criteria and pay reparations to black people in the form of free education.
The legislation, entitled “Cognitive Dissonance,” listed several steps the student council recommended the university take to back up its mission “to attract and serve students from diverse social, economic and ethnic backgrounds and to be sensitive and responsive to those groups which have been underserved by higher education.”
Cognitive dissonance is defined as the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs or attitudes as it relates to decisions and attitude change. In an opinion piece for The Black Voice, Rep. Tyriek Mack, who authored and co-sponsored the legislation, compared this phrase with the university’s inability to act on actual change to provide an inclusive environment.
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“Ultimately, the inclusive rhetoric propagated by these white supremacist institutions have little real meaning,” Mack said in the op-ed.
Now, Mack said “Cognitive Dissonance” will compel the university to move toward action.
According to a statement from ASM, the list of demands include:
- The creation of a special task force by March 10 to assess the utility and feasibility of test-optional admissions and geographically weighted admissions.
- Making sure the university works to ensure the Office of Admissions has sufficient resources to accomplish such changes to policy once the task force creates the report.
- Increasing generic unrestricted need-based financial aid yearly to 10 percent of total giving.
- If the UW Foundation does not reach the aforementioned 10 percent goal, then the foundation could establish 2 percent of all gifts be allocated to unrestricted generic need-based financial aid.
- Reparations for the systemic denial of access to high quality educational opportunities in the form of full and free access for all black people, including undocumented and currently and formerly incarcerated people to UW.
Within the legislation, Mack and co-sponsors Rep. Omer Arain and Rep. Katherine Kerwin pointed to the achievement gap between majority and underrepresented students as one means to reconsider admissions criteria and offer free access to UW for all black people.
“If no one challenges the university’s empty promises, then the racial composition of campus will remain stagnant,” Mack said.
But UW spokesperson Meredith McGlone said in an email to The Badger Herald that the university has done more than simply talk about diversity.
“We’ve increased the proportion of students of color from 11 to 15 percent over the past decade,” she said. “We’ve been recognized nationally for our work closing the graduation gap between majority and underrepresented students.”
McGlone also noted the university has increased need-based aid through programs such as the $100 million Nicholas match and the $10 million Chancellor’s Scholars match.
When it comes to the application process, McGlone said a Board of Regents policy specifically notes undergraduate applications must be accompanied by either an ACT or SAT score. This approach is consistent with other Big Ten universities, she said.
The university shares ASM’s goals of increasing the number underrepresented students on campus, she said, but questioned the student government’s methods and its legality.
“It’s unclear that the methods that they’re suggesting are either legal or the best approach to accomplishing those goals,” McGlone said.
Feb. 16, 11:45 a.m.: This post has been updated to include information from UW communications.