Letter to the editor: Madison’s Diversity Plan since Plan 2008 ended

February 26, 2014

The Daily Cardinal

Your news report (Ad Hoc Diversity Planning Committee releases UW-Madison Diversity Draft plan, Feb. 20, 2014) is wrong in repeating the assertion that UW-Madison has gone without a diversity plan since Plan 2008 ended more than five years ago. That incorrect assertion was first made by the co-chairs of the Ad Hoc Diversity Planning Committee during their Diversity Forum presentations last fall.

Most people fail to realize that former Vice-Provost for Diversity and Climate, and Chief Diversity Office, Damon Williams, spent his years here advancing the Inclusive Excellence framework. This was the newly-named diversity plan adopted by the Board of Regents in March 2009. Williams began implementing this plan in 2009-10, with active support and financing from both the Provost and Chancellor.

It is not surprising why so few people knew what was happening. Williams was quietly at work behind the scenes implementing an approach he helped design before coming to UW-Madison. His work here was never publicized by the Provost or the Chancellor. Implementation of Inclusive Excellence never came to the Faculty Senate for its consideration or endorsement. Nor did it go to other campus governance units. Why there was not greater campus involvement has never been explained.

Nor was attention drawn to the radical redefinition of the term “diversity” embedded in the Inclusive Excellence framework. More information on this new definition will emerge, and probably be contested, when the Ad Hoc Committee finally releases the draft of its new diversity plan.

The accomplishments achieved over the past five years under Inclusive Excellence are documented in a 198-page report compiled by Williams and his staff. The report is called the “UW-Madison Strategic Diversity Update.” Williams released this report on August 2, 2014 just as he departed from Madison to take another job.

This long and dense report includes 41 exhibits. It describes countless diversity programs grouped by the offices under which they operate. It contains a list of 181 UW-Madison diversity initiatives and the acronym for each of these many initiatives.

That report offers three major recommendations. All three are designed to embed diversity programs more deeply within the campus administrative structure.

Lest people still believe diversity efforts ceased in the absence of a new Plan 2008, a look at campus expenditure data dispels that notion. In the past five years, expenditures on Madison’s many Minority and Disadvantaged student programs averaged more than $25 million annually. Adding the additional M/D expenditures that for some unexplained reason are excluded from the official data pushes this annual average expenditure total to approximately $40 million.

To say that UW-Madison had no diversity plan over the past five years suggests that it spent for no apparent purpose almost a quarter billion dollars on M/D programs. With this level of spending, what has the Inclusive Excellence plan accomplished? Has it been evaluated for its effectiveness in increasing minority student enrollment and improving the campus climate? If it has not been evaluated, shouldn’t that be done before UW-Madison launches yet another diversity plan?

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