May 3, 2014
Submitted to The Daily Cardinal
What accounts for the “rush” to vote at Monday’s Faculty Senate meeting
to approve a new UW-Madison diversity plan, FORWARD TOGETHER, developed
by the Provost-appointed Ad Hoc Diversity Planning Committee? The
effects of this new plan, both positive and negative, deserve much
fuller discussion than will be possible at the Senate’s final meeting of
the academic year.
Why not give Faculty Senators and their departments, not to mention the
general public, additional time to become better informed about the
plan, debate its strengths and weaknesses, and then decide how to vote?
The new plan raises two concerns. One is the vastly “Expanded Definition
of Diversity” (pp. 13-14) and what it means. The other is understanding
the new diversity “framework” called ”Inclusive Excellence.” (p. 14).
Reading these definitions will help readers understand the reasons for
The origins of this new approach should be made known. It was developed
and then unveiled in 2005 by the American Association of Colleges and
Universities, a Washington-based, higher education think tank, with the
help of funding from the Ford Foundation. The Inclusive Excellent
framework was brought to the UW System Board of Regents, which adopted
it in March 2009 after virtually no discussion.
There appears to have been no attempt to involve UW System faculties in
what clearly constitutes a major change in their “academic and
educational activities.” Within months, top UW-Madison officials very
quietly began to implement this framework without, as far as I can tell,
bringing this new approach to the attention of the Faculty Senate and
the faculty more generally. Why top administrators adopted that strategy
remains a mystery.
A review of the documents distributed to Regents when it endorsed the
Inclusive Excellence plan reveals significant details about Inclusive
Excellence that are not brought to light in the new diversity plan. The
document, “Working Definitions for Inclusive Excellence,” is most
informative. Among the definitions integral to Inclusive Excellence are
the following: Diversity, Compositional Diversity, Critical Mass,
Inclusion, Equity Mindedness, Deficit Mindedness, Representational
Equity, and Excellence.
Let me point out that the definition of Excellence is circular, meaning
that the word “excellence” is used to define the word Excellence.
Representational Equity calls for “proportional participation of
historically underrepresented racial-ethnic groups at all levels of an
institution, including high status special programs, high-demand majors,
and in the distribution of grades.” As indicated by the reference to
“grades,” the focus of Inclusive Excellence is not on equality of
opportunity but rather equality of outcomes. Is this what the faculty wants?
The new diversity plan says relatively little about several key
considerations. One is how much faculty and staff time, as well as
budget resources, will be required to implement this plan; the Regent
approved plan stated boldly that no additional resources would be
required to implement Inclusive Excellence.
Another consideration is whether and how accountability will be
enforced; it is not a matter of naming who is responsible for what but
rather how to deal with individuals and groups of individuals who are
not effective in carrying out their responsibilities. Still another
consideration is how programs are to be evaluated; how can UW-Madison’s
long tradition of not rigorously evaluating minority programs be reversed?
The issues described here need to be discussed and subjected to the
“sifting and winnowing” process prior to a vote on the new diversity
plan. To approve the plan, without understanding it, would be a
dereliction of our duties of the faculty as scholars and university