Members of the UW-Madison community can begin to take advantage this year of several new initiatives meant to foster more diversity and inclusion on campus.
A new Black Cultural Center, specialized training for faculty, teaching assistants and house fellows and more mental health professionals for underrepresented student populations are just a few of the resources slated for arrival this academic year, according to UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank, Chief Diversity Officer Patrick Sims and Dean of Students Lori Berquam.
Five of the initiatives were pulled directly from more than 100 proposals submitted by the university community last spring in hopes of curbing the rising number of hate and bias incidents on campus.
Each of those programs, ranging from hosting bias literacy workshops led by the Women in Science and Engineering learning community to creating faculty liaisons who will implement diversity and inclusion topics into coursework, will be piloted or developed this year.
UW-Madison spokesperson Meredith McGlone also said two of the new University Health Services mental health professionals are already hired, with one still in process for a fall start.
The university has also launched the pilot project Our Wisconsin, a roughly $150,000 cultural competency program administered to 1,000 students this semester. Berquam said the students will engage in “constructive and courageous” dialogues about identities, differences and resolving conflict.
After the school year concludes, university leadership will evaluate the effectiveness of Our Wisconsin on the pilot group and continue to tweak and expand the program in the future, Berquam added.
To better determine attitudes toward diversity and inclusion on campus, Sims said the university will also launch a campus climate survey during the fall semester.
“Our intention is to stay the course and further cement our commitment to diversity and inclusion,” Sims said.
Several UW-Madison leaders took part in a day-long diversity and inclusion training in August, which Blank called “an incredibly rich time.” Faculty and staff in each department will have until the end of the year to take part in similar training, which McGlone said could be tailored for more specificity.
Blank said although the university is not likely to eliminate “ugly” incidents altogether because of its large population, she hopes to reduce those incidents and give a voice to everyone on campus who needs one.
She also dismissed the idea that inclusiveness and free speech work in juxtaposition, saying that a community of inclusion and support gives everyone the opportunity to take “intellectual risks.”
“I don’t think any of us here believe you actually have to choose between those two,” Blank said.