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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Plan’s progress vexes students

After more than three years, progress has been made with Plan 2008, said Oversight Committee Co-Chair Deborah Brandt.  




'Things are moving,' Brandt said. 




But if things are moving, many students on campus have not noticed. And while most will agree that the plan is optimistic, some feel that in order to achieve results in the remaining seven years of the 10-year plan, more pressure needs to be applied to those with power. 




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'Right now, students of color are the main network for [Plan 2008] accountability, and by sheer numbers, we're not enough.' said Patricia Kim, a member of Generation 2008, the student-organized group in charge of acquainting students with the plan.  




This Saturday, multiple student groups including Generation 2008 and the Associated Students of Madison Diversity Committee will host the first Plan 2008 Student Campus Forum in an attempt to involve a greater number of students in the process of implementing the system-wide diversity initiative. Beginning at 11:30 a.m. at the Pyle Center, registered students will discuss the goals of the plan, watch relevant films and attend workshops. 




Adopted in May 1998, Plan 2008 consists of seven goals for improving diversity: Diversify the student body, implement pre-college programs, improve retention, increase financial aid, diversify staff, diversify curriculums and increase accountability. Many believe, however, that without first achieving the seventh goal, increased accountability, the implementation of the other six are impossible. 




By design, Plan 2008 allows individual schools and departments leeway in deciding if and how the specific goals apply to them. The rationale is that changes feasible here on a large four-year campus located in a moderately sized city, for example, may not be at a two-year program at a system school in a smaller town. Even within specific schools, the goals of each department probably differ.  




At UW-Madison, decisions on compliance are made with the help of the Plan 2008 Oversight Committee and its five subcommittees. The UW System Board of Regents reviews progress annually, most recently on Oct. 4. At last week's review, there was general satisfaction among the regents that progress is occurring. 




However, what specific progress has been made, and where, is still unknown by student leaders, and knowledge of the plan among all students is estimated at less than 1 percent. 




Additionally, there is a growing concern on campus that many of the plan's more straightforward goals, such as increasing the recruitment and retention of students of color and attracting a more diverse faculty, are not in the foreseeable future. 




Jennifer Epps, co-chair of ASM's Diversity Committee, said she is frustrated with this apparent lack of progress. 




'I haven't seen any specific results,' she said. 'Enrollment of students of color actually went down from last year. Goals like increasing recruitment and retention [of students of color] can't even begin to happen until the university takes responsibility for implementing Plan 2008.' 




The burden of accountability now seems to be landing on students. 




'We don't have anything within this plan to measure how or if we've improved,' said Andrea Wise, a member of Generation 2008 and an organizer for Saturday's forum. 'Students need to know the plans and goals of their school and college, and make sure they're implemented.'  




To do this, student organizers are trying to educate a broader range of students, stressing the theme of active campus participation. 




Activities at the forum are intended to spur thought and raise questions about the connection between campus diversity and higher education. After watching a choice of films, participants will attend two workshops. The first workshop is called 'Moving from Shame, Guilt, Ignorance and Apathy to Action.' Organizers said after the films, which may make some students feel uncomfortable, they want to provide an atmosphere where people would feel comfortable expressing themselves. The second workshop will be titled 'What's Really Going On? The Students' Perspective.' 




Finally, organizers will lead a letter-writing campaign to Chancellor John Wiley outlining three no-cost suggestions to increase diversity. 




Kim said she hopes the activities of the forum will act as a stepping stone, encouraging students to begin acting independently to push Plan 2008 along. 




Brandt agrees. 




'The more students are aware and organize around goals, the more chance of fuller and more rapid initiation [of Plan 2008].' 




Organizers of the forum said they have hope. 




'The fact that there are students and organizations that care deeply about diversity issues shows a lot,' Wise said, 'but their participation can't end with this forum.'

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