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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, June 25, 2024

True diversity requires actively learning from one another

To improve campus climate and truly benefit from the wide range of cultures and ethnicities that are represented in our student body, we must create cross-cultural connections.

First, we must release the tension in classrooms caused by misinformed views of affirmative action. Students need to learn the facts so that the first thing that comes to mind when seeing a minority student in a classroom is never, ""I wonder if she's only here because of her race."" To understand affirmative action, we need to think about the ideology of equality. Like columnist Andrew Carpenter expressed during a WSUM radio interview in his argument against affirmative action, equality throughout the entire system is ideal. This includes equal opportunities for children from preschool all the way through their professional careers. As Americans, I think this is something we can all agree is optimal. However, we can also agree that equal opportunity throughout the entire system is not yet a reality. Less than 150 years ago African Americans were enslaved and it was illegal to teach them to read or write. Just 55 years ago, schools were segregated by race and minority schools were extremely inferior to white schools. It was not until the late 1970s that schools started to become integrated, and to this day there are countless forms of racial inequality between schools and within them.

These are just a few of the obstacles many African American families continue to struggle to overcome while competing with white applicants for jobs and university admission. Other minorities must deal with similar forms of discrimination and inequality, along with other unique obstacles such as language barriers.

Affirmative action was originally put in place in 1965 to help level the playing field for minorities. It was put in place conditionally, meaning it would only be in effect until equal opportunity throughout society is reached. Affirmative action legislation was then revised during the Clinton era to eliminate racial quotas, preferences for unqualified persons, reverse discrimination and to ensure that it stays conditional. This revision ensures that affirmative action is a fair policy that does not give minorities any advantages that white applicants do not already have.

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Once we get over the egotistic belief that white students are here solely based on merit and minority students are not, we can move forward. The next step is for white students to become more actively invested in race issues on campus. Part of white privilege is having the luxury of not having to confront issues of race if we do not desire to do so. However as educated and socially conscious citizens, we should not take advantage of this privilege. Campus climate will never change if every diversity forum and discussion held on campus is only attended by minorities.

The third step is getting involved and taking action. We all need to step out of our comfort zones and attend events such as Black Student Union barbecues, workshops hosted by the Multicultural Student Coalition, Africa Week events hosted by the African Students Association and lectures hosted by the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, to name a few. Many listings for multicultural events such as these can be found at the Multicultural Student Center website. These experiences will allow us to branch out and learn about other, as well as our own, cultures while making connections with one another. We can also increase awareness by pushing our professors to address issues of race in all of our classes, not just ethnic studies. Furthermore, if you believe affirmative action should be eliminated then you must help to promote equality at all levels. One thing you can do is to volunteer weekly with the Urban League of Greater Madison, which focuses on closing the achievement gap between white students and students of color in K-12 education. You can also contact UW-Madison's Morgridge Center to get connected with additional volunteer and service learning opportunities tackling inequality.

Having a diverse campus should not only be about having a certain percentage of minority students. It should be about learning from one another, working together to improve our society and making everyone feel comfortable regardless of race, opinion, background or interests. We are the only ones who can make this happen here at UW-Madison.

Amy Stein is a junior majoring in legal studies and a PEOPLE scholar. Please send all feedback to opinion@dailycardinal.com. 

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