Two years after its inception, Our Wisconsin is cutting its teeth as a program promoting inclusivity and cultural education. More than 60 percent of all students living in residence halls attended the workshops, a significant increase from the 1,000-student pilot program in the fall of 2016.
Despite the success in expanding Our Wisconsin, survey results released yesterday indicate that more than 40 percent of students have chosen not to attend a session. This equates to more than 3,000 students absent.
That number should trouble all of us.
On a campus that has been rocked by anti-Semitic, racist and discriminatory incidents in the past year, tolerance and identity education are vital tools for first-year students. Without them, incoming classes will inevitably perpetuate the status quo — a status quo that minority students and activists have been decrying for years.
Freshmen, don’t skip out on Our Wisconsin training, it’s the first step in making this your WisconsinEditor’s note: Yusra Murad is a facilitator for Our Wisconsin. In the middle of March 2016, the University of Wisconsin Read…
For hundreds of students, Madison will be the most “diverse” place they have ever lived. They will see people of color for the first time. They will run into people who use different pronouns than them. They will see a woman in a hijab for the first time. They will have a friend on their floor with an unfamiliar religious dietary restriction.
In a perfect world, this kind of naiveness is navigable. Students ask questions, receive answers and go on with their lives.
But this will never be a perfect world. Madison will still be a campus where bars ban hip-hop music “to keep out a bad crowd.” It will still be a campus where bars forbid do-rags and other clothing items after shootings. It will still be a campus where our administration considers students depicting the lynching of former President Barack Obama at a football game “an exercise of the individual’s right to free speech.”
The University of Wisconsin is far from an inclusive campus. It is troubled by dissatisfying campus climate survey results and a startling increase in hate and bias reports. When UW presents Our Wisconsin to freshmen as “optional,” so is respectful and informed conduct on campus.
Until UW makes Our Wisconsin and similar initiatives mandatory for all incoming students, the status quo will remain. If satisfactory results are coming out of workshops, why not expand the program? Why not make a public, full-throated commitment to changing campus climate?
For a university that cannot shed accusations of racism and discrimination, and yet seems desperate to attract students of color, promoting diversity and education is crucial. For incoming students, Our Wisconsin is a tool to help identify micro-aggressions, practice pronouns and appreciate different cultures.
It is not a liberal conspiracy. It is not an infringement on students’ free speech. Our Wisconsin, at its core, promotes the acquisition of knowledge. And isn’t that the reason we all attend college, anyway?
Julia Brunson (julia.r[email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in history.