If you attend any major on-campus event, you have likely seen a member of the university communications team taking photographs. What you may not have noticed was their center of focus was probably on the students of color attending the event.
To provide context on how disproportionately the University of Wisconsin features students of color, according to the Office of the Registrar’s Fall 2018-2019 enrollment report, minority-identifying students account for less than 20 percent of the overall student population, while white students make up nearly 70 percent.
But if you browse UW’s website under “Campus Life,” you will find that more than half the students featured in those pictures are students of color. The same pattern is repeated across UW’s social media pages.
A major problem: Students of color feel unwelcome on campus and in the classroomAs Rishard Bournes enters Grainger Hall to attend his business classes, the mere sight of numbers — clocks indicating the Read…
So when I read that Lori Berquam suggested UW doesn’t have the money or space for more student cultural centers, I was confused. It seems as though they have space for us on their social media but aren’t willing to create the same space for us on their campus.
After a little more digging, I realized the over-representation of minorities has been a constant trend, but it skyrocketed beginning in the second half of 2016, particularly on UW’s Instagram account.
I can only infer this was intentional action taken by the university in response to the results of the 2016 Campus Climate Survey which revealed a large portion of minority-identifying students felt unwelcome and lacked a sense of belonging on campus.
In efforts to unify campus, ‘I am UW’ campaign aims to create feelings of inclusivity across UWA University of Wisconsin administrator introduced the “I am UW” campaign, a unifying messaging strategy in response to recommendations from Read…
I want to make it very clear that I do not pretend to speak on behalf of all students of color. While I commend the university for taking the initiative and attempting to create a sense of belonging for minorities on campus, I don’t believe that making us the main feature on communications pieces is going to help achieve your goals.
If the framework calls for initiatives geared toward an increased retention rate, as well as the recruitment of more students of color, the place to start is a place of honesty — honesty in depicting life on campus as a minority, honesty in the burdens we bear to feel as though we are welcome or belong, even something as simple as honesty regarding how often we appear on campus.
And, if that is too difficult, or if you fear the outcome of what that honesty might bring, let that be a wake up call to the deeper issues regarding life as a student of color on campus.
Tarah Stangler ([email protected]) is a junior studying English and community & nonprofit leadership.