In early August, the University of Wisconsin received four million dollars in Title VI grants to be dedicated to the school’s international and area studies centers for the 2022-2023 academic year. The main departments receiving funding from these grants include the African Studies Program, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Center for East Asian Studies and Institute for Regional and International Studies, among others.
Funds of any kind are beneficial to universities, but the unique requirements that qualify colleges like UW for Title VI grants make the potential for this particular award significantly more potent. To understand why, it is critical to understand Title VI.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes the Title VI clause to expand the Act’s reach into the federal financial sector. Title VI prohibits discrimination in any program or activity that receives federal funds. The main target of this mandate was the education system, which has historically been unequal in its distribution. The most obvious of these inequities was the segregation of schools in the 20th century which became a focal point for the Civil Rights Act and other legislation of the time. By tightening requirements for federal funding, Title VI ensures universities adhere to the basic ideas of nondiscriminatory teaching across their institutions.
Although Title VI only specifically prohibits discrimination, the clause also has the potential to better the education system in other ways. For UW’s international studies center, Title VI funding sets the foundation for increasing language courses and cultural history lessons in new and stronger ways. The American education system has been known for its inaccurate portrayals of historical events or situations.
But, Title VI grants such as this give universities the opportunity to put money towards hiring culturally and ethnically diverse staff, re-working course curriculums to be more inclusive and funding study abroad opportunities that give students the chance to learn about regions worldwide from direct sources. Without these critical funds, there is the risk of inaccurately portraying historical contexts and teaching inaccurate information when it is not being verified by the groups who are being studied.
Put simply, the U.S has always struggled with culturally insensitive — and at times, wholly inaccurate — course content. Many university courses must now grapple with how to rewrite their course curriculums to better depict these sensitive subjects and histories. Due to the strict requirements that must be met for a university to receive federal Title VI grants, the programs which can use these funds are limited to those who operate in a non-discriminatory manner. Ensuring equality and cultural accuracy is necessary for any educational institution, but it is particularly essential in language studies, regional history and culture-specific courses.
UW has already begun this process, starting with the four million dollars awarded earlier this year.
“With the support of Title VI funding, the University of Wisconsin has trained close to 6,500 FLAS fellows, has awarded over 5,500 degrees and certificates through UW NRCs and teaches up to 80 languages each academic year,” according to UW’s international division website.
As UW begins to ration out the awarded grants, one final subject to touch on is how Title VI funds can further develop and expand the Wisconsin Idea. As one of the most fundamental messages of UW, the Wisconsin Idea states education should influence lives beyond the classroom. Whether that be through national politics or community service, UW is dedicated to spreading its influence worldwide.
Title VI funding not only helps UW achieve this, but it makes sure it does so universally, with specific emphasis on spreading the benefits of education to those groups that have been systematically left out of these rewards.
UW has been given an incredible opportunity to improve the quality of its international center with the funds it was awarded. It is now up to the school to realize this potential and live up to the standards of equality and fairness Title VI stands for.
Fiona Hatch ([email protected]) is a sophomore studying political science and international studies.