Plan 2008 not extensive enough

· Oct 10, 2001 Tweet

In 1998 the UW System launched a 10-year initiative called Plan 2008 with the intention of moving the system’s schools into the 21st century by increasing the level of diversity. The plan was meant to build on Design for Diversity, the previous attempt by the UW System to enhance opportunities for people of color. Both programs are laudable efforts to increase the level of diversity on the campuses of the UW System.

But, true to form, the UW Board of Regents and its surrogates have given me an opportunity to gripe.

The UW System Office of Multicultural Affairs released its biennial report on Plan 2008 last Friday. The executive summary states: “Overall, the news is very good.”

Nothing could be farther from the truth. The levels of enrollment and retention for students of color have only increased by a tiny amount and can hardly be called a victory. The original document that lays out Plan 2008 states: “Having plans is not the same thing as achieving results. Empty rhetoric, without the conviction and the will to keep promises, reinforces cynics and discourages optimists.” Truer words were never written. The lack of real results, and the abundance of empty rhetoric has reinforced my position as a cynic more than I ever could have imagined.

My problem isn’t that the results are slow in coming; slowness is the nature of every bureaucracy. Where I find fault is with the ridiculous way that the system presents its findings pertaining to 2008. To say that the achievements thus far have been meager would be an understatement; even so, the UW System Office of Multicultural Affairs continues to give rosy reports of their failures. It is easy to see through the blustering of the UW System staff, which is dangerous because it gives those who disagree with the goals of the Plan credible arguments that it is ineffective.

Plan 2008 has several specific goals that it is not meeting, the first of which is to increase the number of Wisconsin high-school graduates of color who apply, are accepted and enroll at UW System institutions. The number of high-school students of color within the state who attend UW schools has increased 20 percent in two years, no doubt an impressive feat.

However, this accomplishment is foiled by the Plan’s third goal, which is to close the gap in educational achievement by bringing retention and graduation rates for students of color in line with those of the student body as a whole.

The most current figures show that the six-year graduation rate for students of color is a paltry 40 percent, compared with 61 percent for white students. Plan 2008 also requires an increase in the number of faculty, academic staff, classified staff and administrators of color, and yet there are still five UW System schools who have zero administrators of color. The final goal of Plan 2008 is to improve the accountability of the UW System and its institutions. Admittedly, this is a difficult task, but at present no one is holding those who are implementing this plan, or the UW Board of Regents, which is in charge of overseeing Plan 2008, accountable in a real and lasting way. Without the benefit of quantified goals it is impossible to keep Plan 2008 on the correct path.

The implementation of Plan 2008 here at UW-Madison has been less than stellar. The flagship of the UW System is less diverse than its smaller sister schools such as UW-Milwaukee, UW-Whitewater and UW-Parkside. UW-Madison was recently ranked one of the least diverse campuses in the nation among public schools. From the fall of 1997 to 2000 the number of freshmen students of color to enroll at UW-Madison increased by eight percent, while the number of enrolled minority students at UW-Milwaukee increased 20 percent and at UW-Whitewater a whopping 104 percent (from 98 to 200 students of color).

UW-Madison is failing to substantially increase the level of diversity on this campus despite assurances to the contrary and flowery language explaining how well we are doing. In the fall of 2000, UW-Madison admitted just 128 African-American students who graduated from a high school within the state; at the same time UW-Milwaukee admitted 390 African-American students. Given the extensive recruitment initiatives that are supposed to take place by way of Plan 2008, this disparity really should not exist.

What the UW System in general, and UW-Madison specifically, needs is to make ironclad goals for diversity and work relentlessly towards them. As a cynic I don’t see this happening. The duty falls to every student who values a diverse society, and any group willing to work for it. We must hold the UW System and UW-Madison administrators accountable, and we must push them beyond their limited expectations.


This article was published Oct 10, 2001 at 12:00 am and last updated Oct 10, 2001 at 12:00 am


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