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Black UW-Madison Alumni Recommend Improvements To Campus Diversity, Inclusion

Group Working With Administration In Hopes Of Institutionalizing Change

okandasan (CC-BY)

A group of hundreds of African-American alumni from the University of Wisconsin-Madison called The Collective are collaborating with the university to improve diversity and inclusion efforts on campus.

Last week, the group sent a 10-page letter to administration that included 10 recommendations on how to better address incidents of hate and bias on campus. Among other things, they are calling for UW-Madison to include diversity and inclusion in new student orientation and update the university’s conduct code.

Andreall Moore, co-author of the letter and UW-Madison alumna, doesn’t want these recommendations to be forgotten when new administrators take over.

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“We’re trying to make this be more of an institutional priority so that no matter who steps into those roles, that they recognize this is something … that’s going to be important to the alumni because we’re going to be looking to you to answer to us,” Moore said.

Patrick Sims, chief diversity officer at UW-Madison, said the university is working on making their efforts more sustainable.

“One of my tasks is making sure that whomever comes in after me has the baton that they can pick up and pick up where we left off as opposed to starting from ground zero.” Sims said. “We’re documenting (our efforts), we’re talking about how they got established, who were the partners, we’re talking about who was accountable for bringing these things to life.”

Chancellor Rebecca Blank mentioned in a blog post earlier this month the accomplishments the university has made to achieve greater diversity and inclusion on campus. Last fall, 20 percent of the student body took the school’s first-ever campus climate survey and University Health Services hired new staff members to serve under-represented groups, Blank wrote. She also mentioned UW-Madison will be opening the Black Cultural Center on campus next month.

Blank did acknowledge, however, that there is still more work to be done. Sims agreed.

“We can’t do it solely on the backs of those who are a part of those marginalized communities,” Sims said. “We want whatever the majority is, be it race, gender, sexual orientation, we want folks in the majority to play a key role in helping expand the conversation and creating that more welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone.”

The Collective will be meeting with campus leaders this fall to track progress.

The alumni group was formed in late October 2016 after an incident at a Badgers football game where a spectator wore a mask of former President Barack Obama with a noose around his neck. The university responded by characterizing the costume as free speech.

A letter, signed by more than 160 people, was sent to Blank in early November requesting a meeting to discuss ways to improve the racial climate on campus. The Collective met with administration during homecoming weekend and hosted a forum to receive input for the recommendations.

UW Athletics changed its venue policies in November prohibiting nooses and ropes in the stadium “because they are weapons and they constitute a threat to safety.”