Vol. 8    No. 22
OCTOBER 31, 2013

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EDITORIAL STAFF

Jonathan Gramling
Publisher & Editor

Contributing Writers
Rita Adair, Ike Anyanike, Paul
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Capistran, Theola Carter, Fabu,
Andrew Gramling, Lang Kenneth
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Pascual,  & Martinez White

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Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                               Speak Up Madison!
As I travel through the Madison area’s communities of color, one of the commonalities that I see is the
importance of education as a tool to advance out of the socio-economic morass that too many people are
stuck in. It is viewed as a way to get out of poverty, a tool of self-empowerment. Many African Americans
gave up their lives fighting for the right to be educated.

And people are still fighting to ensure that their children receive an education that is relevant and provides
them with the skills they need to succeed in a 21st century global economy. These days that fight is also to
ensure that there is enough funding for their schools to provide a quality education.

Access to equal education opportunities is vital if America is to live up to its historic promise that all who
work hard can achieve the American Dream. That dream is increasingly dependent upon having access to
higher education. A high school diploma, in most cases, doesn’t cut it any more.

But access to higher education opportunities is not a given for traditionally underrepresented students on the
UW-Madison campus. Back in the late 1980s, some racial incidents on campus led to the university
developing a 10 year diversity plan. In 1998, that was replaced with Plan 2008.

That plan led to the creation of some wonderful diversity programs such as the UW PEOPLE Program, First
Wave and Posse. There were some limited gains made during that 10-year period. But for some groups, like
African American students, their admission and retention rates have remained relatively unchanged. The
percentage of African American students on campus is roughly half of what it is in Wisconsin’s general
population. More still needs to be done — a lot more — especially in some schools and colleges on campus
that have very low numbers of historically underrepresented students enrolled in their programs.

Around a year ago, the university recognized that it needed to develop a new diversity plan to guide its
efforts over the next 10 years and beyond. An ad hoc committee has been working on developing a plan
since last February and has come up with a preliminary strategic framework — as well as a new definition of
diversity that is much broader than the traditional underrepresented communities — and it now wants to get
feedback from the campus community and the larger community on its content and how it could be used to
promote diversity on the UW-Madison campus.

Dr. Patrick Sims became the interim vice provost and chief diversity officer after Dr. Damon Williams Left
UW-Madison and joined the Boys & Girls Club of America this past summer. Sims issued the following
statement concerning the upcoming Listening Sessions where they will obtain feedback on the strategic
framework for achieving diversity and inclusion:

“The Greater Madison community, as well as the entire state and all the regions of the country we serve, are
pivotal partners in shaping how we move forward in improving our diversity efforts as a world-class
institution of higher learning and partner in community outreach,” Sims said. “We want and need the input of
communities beyond the campus to establish and reach our goals on diversity and inclusion.”

Now is the time for Madison’s communities of color to speak up about the diversity plan. The University of
Wisconsin-Madison faces many political and economic challenges as it works to remain a world-class
institution of higher education. For the past 10-20 years, the state of Wisconsin’s share of funding for the
university has declined and so the university has had to rely more on higher tuition rates, private donations
and public research dollars. For some inexplicable reason, the state legislature has appeared to be
unsupportive at best and seemingly hostile to this educational gem that has been created through tax payer
dollars over the past 160 years or so. And the U.S. Supreme Court could be handing down some rulings next
spring that could negatively impact affirmative action in higher education.

There are a lot of forces at play here. Fortunately, most of the leaders of this great university, including UW
Chancellor Rebecca Blank, believe that a world-class university that is preparing its students for the 21st
century global economy must be diverse in all senses of the word. But Madison’s communities of color must
also be a force in this effort by speaking up about what they feel is needed to make the Madison campus
diverse.

The Ad Hoc Committee is holding five listening sessions on campus and four in the community over the next
two weeks. They are listed on page three of this paper in a box titled “We Want Your Feedback on UW-
Madison’s Future.” Please plan to attend one of these sessions and speak up. The future accessibility of the
UW-Madison campus to communities of color is dependent upon you speaking up at these listening
sessions. The higher education opportunities for future generations of the Madison area’s communities of
color, especially the African American community, are dependent upon you speaking up now. Tomorrow will
be too late. Speak up Madison!