If you asked every person in a room of 20 or so people what their definition of diversity is, you would get 20 different responses. Issues of diversity are of the utmost importance, yet handling them is no simple task. We need to view diversity in regards of mutual respect for everyone else. Only then can we begin to make our campus welcoming and safe for all students. The Diversity Committee is the place where this needs to begin, and tonight, I will be seeking Student Council’s approval to lead the committee. My plan involves three steps towards making this a reality: 1) redefining the purpose of the committee, 2) outreach to student organizations, the campus, and the Madison community, and 3) advocacy on behalf of students.
Many groups at UW-Madison are already doing great work for diversity for their campus and community. These include MCSC, Wunk Sheek, MEChA, and the Black Student Union among many others. These organizations have been doing great work for students and deserve their recognition, however, there are many other organizations that do the same work but often aren’t recognized for it. We need to expand our base and engage these other organizations that are often not thought of as being a part of campus diversity but in fact are, such as Working Class Student Union, Muslim Student Association, India Students Association, Vets for Vets, Badger Catholic, Campus Crusade for Christ, Hillel, One Voice, and many others. I want to bring these organizations into the discussions of diversity on campus and I want the Diversity Committee to recognize the multitudes of different beliefs, backgrounds, heritages etc that make up diversity in our society and more importantly on our campus!
The Diversity Committee needs to start acting as a liaison to the student organizations on campus and help them to hold successful events by co-sponsoring, advertising, and volunteering at the events to help build better communication and collaboration. By building a dialog with these organizations we can better inform them of what ASM can do for them, and in turn it my help them to get involved in ASM. The Chair of the Diversity Committee should be tasked with beginning the outreach process to meet with organizational leadership. The overall goal is to get more people involved with ASM through the Diversity Committee
Other groups we must outreach to are everyday students at UW, and the greater Madison community. We can do this most effectively by setting up events. One event that Diversity Committee can begin with is the Shadow Day that University Affairs committee intern Joanna Romero is working on. Shadow Day gives high school students from underrepresented communities the chance to come to campus and shadow a college student for the day. The Diversity Committee needs to make sure that the ASM Shadow Day is successfully implemented and is institutionalized from year to year in ASM. Also, the Real Talk program needs to continue on campus because it provides a great forum to keep communication and conversation about diversity active and engages students not generally involved in diversity discussions. This is a program I would like to see better advertised through the Diversity Committee.
The second goal that I would finish by the end of this semester is a week of religious identity recognition. A major aspect of diverse culture that is often overlooked and left out on this campus is faith and spirituality. We will work and coordinate with religious organizations on campus such as Badger Catholic, Campus Crusade for Christ, Hillel, One Voice, Chabad, Muslim Student Association as well as the atheist, agnostic organizations and all other groups that deal with issues regarding religion and spirituality. A proper name can be formulated in the planning process of this event, and the goal of the event will be to bring together a coalition of these students to have guest speakers, workshops and other beneficial things concerning the issue of faith identity. Aspects of faith and non faith are different throughout many cultures, classes, and ethnicities and I want to bring that to the forefront of the campus.
Advocacy is the most important part about what the Diversity Committee needs to do. The most obvious issue of diversity is the current campus climate. Issues regarding respect, safety, racism, homophobia and classism do come up on this campus. The Diversity Committee needs to be a place where students can come together and work on these issues asap. When these issues arise, as the chair I will make sure the committee will react quickly and effectively to empower students to handle these issues that affect them and their communities. Working with the Campus Diversity and Climate Committee is a key goal to advocate for students, and we need to make sure that students are working with the CDCC to represent the Diversity Committee. Our goal should be to shape policy with the administration, consult with the Center for First Year Experience, the Division of Student Life, the Office of Admissions SOAR, and other committees to make sure that diversity discussion is present in all administration decisions. The end goal is to eventually build respect over the years by working through controversial campus climate issues.