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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Diversity panel urges need for harrassment victim resources

Faculty at UW discuss the need for a place for students and staff to go with complaints of harassment on campus. They say current facilities listen, but do not have the authority to act.[/media-credit]

From before the Outstanding Women of Color panel started Thursday the atmosphere in the room centered around voices being heard and acting on behalf of those voices.

Upon entering the room, the four panelists participating in the University of Wisconsin’s second annual Diversity Forum immediately decided to change the layout, taking chairs set up in perfect rows to instead form a giant circle.

The panelists – UW Life Sciences Communication professor Patricia Loew, UW Counseling Psychology professor Alberta Gloria, UW administrator in the Office for Equity and Diversity Seema Kapani and recent UW Ph.D recipient Idella Yamben – sat among the crowd as opposed to behind a table, establishing a feeling of welcome.


Audience members and panelists alike expressed the importance of having a safe space on campus for people to voice their concerns without fear of repercussion.

Kapani said many people confide their stories in her – stories she said need to be heard by people with the authority to do something.

“People appear at my door…and tell me stories that are incredibly, incredibly appalling,” she said. “This university does not have a safe place for people to go to.”

At the mention of UW’s Ombudsman’s office, an informal confidential department for faculty and staff to go with their complaints, Kapani said UW needed more because “they have no teeth.”

Many members of the audience told stories about their own experiences, from students coming to them in tears to others who heard of people threatened by tenured faculty members.

Gloria said if students are feeling like they are just taking up space without having a purpose they will not be the only ones who suffer.

“Our students, our faculty are going to vote with their feet,” Gloria said.

Increasing the number of staff members of color also came up during the course of discussion.

Tired of hearing department chairs say no people of color applied for positions, Loew wondered what could be done to inform a wider variety of applicants about available positions.

Beyond that, another factor in getting more minority employees are hiring committees, which several audience members said heavily favor applicants they are familiar with, often overlooking qualified people of color.

A UW alumna, Yamben said she succeeded in large part because she had a network of people who helped her understand what she needed to do and who she needed to be in contact with to achieve her goals.

“Everyone understands the university is a political environment,” Yamben said.

Wisconsin Alumni Association staff member Faustina Bohling said she attended the event because diversity impacts the experiences of alumni, and as a woman of color she was interested in what the panel had to say.

“As long as we commit to do the work, we’re heading in the right direction,” Bohling said.

The audience agreed that despite the problems brought forward no progress would be made without a significant following on campus.

“The only thing we have in our own hands is our spear of influence,” Kapani said. “We cannot let go of these stories.”

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