On UW-Madison’s 2015 Diversity Implementation Plan

The two essays that follow present my analysis of the 2015 report on Madison’s Diversity Implementation Plan. The essay immediately below, not previously printed, points out the plan’s additional deficiencies. The earlier and related essay, published previously in the Badger Herald, can be viewed as the first of a two-part series.

Grading Madison’s Flawed Diversity Implementation Plan? Part II

Reposted on October 24, 2015 by W. Lee Hansen

This is a sequel to “Current diversity plan just another dead-end” published in the Badger Herald on April 20, 2015; a shorter version of the Badger Herald essay appeared in the Cap Times, “UW-Madison’s New Diversity Plan Lacks Focus,” on May 3, 2015.

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Reports produced by college and university committees are rarely subject to the scrutiny professors apply to the papers submitted by their students. Even less frequently are these reports “graded” on their content and presentation.

The UW-Madison’s diversity implementation plan issued last April it cries out to be graded. One wonders how it would have been graded if submitted by a student in one of the Comm A English courses required of most entering freshmen.

The report’s title tells it all: Affecting R.E.E.L. Change Retain, Equip, Engage, Lead for Diversity and Inclusion. A Diversity Implementation Plan for the University of Wisconsin Madison (April 2015).

Consider first the content of the plan. It is about implementing “change” in “diversity” and “inclusion.” At the very least, readers would expect the authors to define the two terms that appear in the title. Strangely, their definitions are nowhere to be found. How can readers be expected to understand an implementation plan without knowing the exact meaning of these two vague but widely-used terms?

For a definition of “diversity,” readers must return to the May 2014 report of the Ad Hoc Diversity Planning Committee, Forward Together: A Framework for Diversity and Inclusive Excellence. Here is that definition:

Diversity: “Individual differences (e.g. personality, learning styles, and life experiences) and group/social differences (e.g. race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identify or expression, country of origin, and ability as well as cultural, political, religious, or other affiliations) that can be engaged in the service of learning.”

What this definition means has never been made clear.

Understanding the meaning of “inclusion” is even more difficult. The term is not defined in the May 2014 Forward Together…report, even though the combination of terms, “diversity and inclusion,” is mentioned more than 85 times in that report! Nor is the term defined anywhere in the former Chief Diversity Officer’s 198-page report, UW-Madison Strategic Diversity Update (July 2013).

To find a definition of “inclusion” readers must go back to the Inclusive Excellence diversity framework report endorsed by the Board of Regents in March 2009. Here is that definition:

Inclusion: “The active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity—in people, in the curriculum, in the co-curriculum and in communities (intellectual, social, cultural, geographical) with which individuals might connect—in ways that increase one’s awareness, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication, and empathetic understanding of the complex ways individuals interact within systems and institutions.”

What programs are proposed that will ensure achievement of these ambitious inclusion outcomes? The plan is completely silent on how to implement the important goal of “inclusion.”

Nor does the implementation plan define in any way the term “Inclusive Excellence” that appears in the title of the May 2014 diversity report, Forward Together: A Framework for Diversity and Inclusive Excellence. To find out what that term means, readers must go back again to the March 2009 Inclusive Excellence diversity framework report. Here is the definition found there:

Inclusive Excellence: “Inclusive Excellence is the umbrella framework under which the UW System and its institutions will move forward in coming years to strategically address equity, diversity and inclusion beyond Plan 2008. The central premise of Inclusive Excellence holds that UW System colleges and universities need to intentionally integrate their diversity efforts into the core aspects of their institutions—including academic priorities, leadership, quality improvement initiatives, decision-making, day-to-day operations, and organizational cultures—in order to maximize their success.”

Even if these three terms had been defined, the implementation plan fails to describe how the May 2014 report’s 18 initiatives will help achieve the multiple goals of “diversity,” “inclusion,” and “inclusive excellence.” Nor does the plan specify the “changes” required to achieve these goals, particularly the goals of “diversity and inclusion.” Any implementation plan should surely address these important matters. What exactly must we do?

Let us return to the title. The attempted cleverness in constructing the plan’s title is likely to confuse readers about its focus. It also leads to a significant grammatical blunder, one that instructors in Comm A English courses would undoubtedly mark with red ink.

Putting aside the perplexing and distracting portion of the title that includes the following: “R.E.E.L. Change Retain, Equip, Engage, Lead,” readers will wonder whether there is a mistake. Shouldn’t the word be “real,” an adjective modifying the word “change,“ as in “real change”? Devoid of its punctuation (i.e., its periods), the word “REEL” makes no sense, as either a noun, “a device on which to wind something,” or as a verb, “to sway or rock back under a blow.” Even if the word “real” had been used, it would have been superfluous.

More serious is the grammatical blunder that leads off the plan’s title. Instead of using the word, “Affecting,” the word should be “Effecting.” The widely-used The American College Dictionary points out that “AFFECT and EFFECT agree in the idea of exerting influence. To AFFECT is to concern, be of interest or importance to; to produce an effect in or upon something: to affect one’s conduct or health. To EFFECT is to accomplish or bring about something: to effect a reconciliation.”

This long-time distinction between “affect” and “effect,” learned by my generation back in the 10th grade, still holds, according to Steven Pinker’s 2014 book, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.

How ironic I find all this in view of the 2014 Forward Together…report’s self-congratulatory statement about UW-Madison becoming “a leader in the state and nation, in fostering diversity, equity [Oops! “equity” is nowhere defined], and inclusion…”

What a sorry state of affairs. It is difficult to understand how the intellectual horsepower embodied in the more than 100 committee members, some mentioned twice by their affiliations—35 academic staff, 18 administrators, 18 classified staff, 14 undergraduates, 10 faculty, 7 LTE (limited-term employees), 4 graduate students, 3 administrator-faculty, 2 community members, and 1 LTE-faculty-administrator—could produce such an embarrassing document. We can only imagine how much unpaid time this endeavor consumed.

How could this plan be graded? Freshmen enrolled in Comm A English sections are required to turn in 25 pages of revised prose by the end of the semester. The implementation committee—including its distinguished professors and even more numerous academic staff members, many with advanced degrees—had sufficient time and resources to ensure that its report met the standards expected in the papers our students submit in their writing courses.

This diversity implementation plan does not merit a passing grade. It would have to be returned with instructions to rework and clarify its content, and then rewrite it. How sad that the efforts of so many talented people produced such a flawed document.

Posted in Preferential Admissions | Tagged affect, change, diversity, effect, equity, grade, inclusion, Inclusive Excellence, R.E.E.L. Change, Ad Hoc Diversity Planning Committee, Forward Together, Framework for Diversity and Inclusive Excellence, UW-Madison | Leave a comment



Current diversity plan just another dead-end: Part I

Posted on April 20, 2015 by W. Lee Hansen, from the Apr 21, 2015, The Badger Herald

“You’ve told us about the 18 initiatives and the 40 or so metrics in the diversity and inclusion implementation plan. What should I tell my colleagues about how to focus our individual and group efforts? Which five initiatives should we concentrate on?”

That is the essence of the question I heard posed by a department chairman at the first of the eight recently scheduled listening sessions on the new University of Wisconsin diversity framework.

The chief diversity officer’s response did not answer that question. The department chair did not press for an answer. Nobody else did either. Next question, please.

The new diversity implementation plan document is the product of intensive labors over the past few months by eight committees/groups composed of 112 individuals: 35 academic staff, 18 administrators, 18 classified staff, 14 undergraduates, 10 faculty, seven LTE (limited-term employee) administrators, four graduate students, three administrators-faculty, two community members and one LTE-faculty-administrator.

What began with a list of 70 initiatives was eventually pared down to 18 initiatives. These initiatives are to be implemented in phases, with some already underway and others to be started in the coming years.

What is sadly missing are connections to past and ongoing efforts to push forward on the goals of diversity. More attention is given to the cosmetics of the document, as evidenced in its too-clever title: “Affecting R.E.E.L. Change (Retain, Equip, Engage, Lead) for Diversity and Inclusion.”

What is the direct connection between the new report’s 18 initiatives and the May 2014 approved report of the Ad Hoc Diversity Planning Committee? That report, “Forward Together: A Framework for Diversity and Inclusive Excellence,” listed 30 recommendations that would involve almost 80 campus units and approximately 175 “partnerships” to push forward its recommendations. If anything looked like an implement plan, this was it. But how these 30 recommendations and the 18 implementation initiatives are linked remains a mystery.

Then there are the between 50 to 60 long-established Minority and Disadvantaged Student programs. Every year the Office of Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer prepares a spreadsheet indicating the sources and dollar expenditures for each of these programs, the FTE (full-time equivalent) employee count, and the allocation of these resources to promote recruitment, retention and graduation of minority students. Again, how these programs are linked to the new implementation plan receives no attention.

Next is the “UW-Madison Strategic Diversity Update” (Draft 1.0 July 2013) prepared by former Chief Diversity Officer Damon Williams and circulated only days before he resigned. That 198-page report describes 181 “University Department/Organizational Program Initiatives” that are identified by an alphabet soup of acronyms. The content of this report, compiled by the CDO staff, described programs and initiatives “to provide the campus community with a broad look at the numerous activities taking place institutionally. It is truly impressive!” Impressive? Perhaps. But, again, what is the connection?

Despite the “absence” of a formally-adopted diversity plan in the five years following the end of Madison’s previous diversity plan, called Plan 2008, an open records request turned up some interesting information. It revealed that then-Chief Diversity Officer Williams, working quietly behind the scenes, with the support of then-Chancellor Biddy Martin and then-Provost Deluca but without informing the faculty, began implementing several key goals of the Inclusive Excellence Diversity plan that had been “endorsed” by the UW System Board of Regents in 2009.

So, what does the campus have to work with? The new 2015 implementation plan’s 18 initiatives and approximately 40 metrics, the 30 recommendations plus the many involvements and partnerships identified in the May 2014 Ad Hoc Diversity Planning Committee, the 181 programs and initiatives from the 2013 Strategic Update report, the more than 50 long-standing Minority and Disadvantaged (M&D) Student Programs, plus the uncounted Inclusive Excellence programs initiated beginning in 2009.

How do all of these efforts fit together? No hints can be found in any of these documents. It is as if each group that worked on these various plans felt, to use the old phrase, that they needed “to reinvent the wheel.” Unfortunately, the “wheels” don’t match. Despite a constant “spinning of the wheels,” there is little forward progress.

What are we left with? Five unrelated reports that would be the laughing stock if put forth by effective leaders in business and public agencies. That some legislators wonder about UW’s spending of taxpayer funds should come as no surprise.

Particularly embarrassing are the self-congratulatory statements found in these reports, for example, through implementing this new plan UW can become “a leader in the state and nation in fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion through active participation of all constituents of the UW-Madison community.”

Let’s cut out the bragging about what could happen. Better to toot our horn after we have something substantial to show for it. Modesty is a much neglected virtue.

Posted in Preferential Admissions | Tagged Ad Hoc Diversity Planning Committee, Affecting R.E.E.L. Change, Diversity, Forward Together, Framework for Diversity and Inclusive Excellence, inclusion, UW-Madison | Leave a comment


Other 2015 Essays Posted on my Website:   http:/www.ssc.wisc.edu/~wlhansen/

UW should use all available means to create a better campus climate. Posted on January 30, 2015. The Badger Herald.

UW students stuck with cost that taxpayers used to cover. Posted on March 8, 2015. The Wisconsin State Journal.

Enlist Scott Walker in the ‘Right-on-Crime’ movement. Posted on May 11, 2015. The Cap Times.

Faculty Tenure: Improve It. Don’t Remove It. Posted on August 18, 2015 on NAS.org, AAUP.org, and on August 30, 2015, The Cap Times.

Why Act 55’s changes don’t make sense for UW-Madison. Posted on October 9, 2015. The Cap Times.

Lest We Forget—Memorial Day Reflections: May 2015. Posted on May 25, 2015.

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