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Sunday, December 03, 2023

The deteriorating dialogue on campus diversity

The issue of diversity has been prevalent in the last year and a half of my life. When I interned at McDonald’s Corporation, I had multiple trainings on different types of diversity, including cultural, generational and racial. Hearing from the company’s diversity officers, the idea of diversity and inclusion were shown as a way to promote a better corporate culture that benefits everybody from being able to better deal with challenges and an ever increasing global community.

Now, I’m back at UW-Madison and the tone of the diversity dialogue has taken a sudden turn. Two of the larger groups on campus dealing with diversity, ASM’s Diversity Committee and the Multicultural Student Coalition, have made the news, not because of their message, but because of divisive comments and outrageous claims. In fact, these two groups have just added to a culture on our campus that does not embrace diversity, but merely plays lip-service to it.

Most recently, the Diversity Committee issued resolutions alleging that the Student Services Finance Committee did not give MCSC funding because SSFC members were not objective. If this were the case, MCSC and the Diversity Committee have a point. If the reason behind not funding MCSC was a violation of the non-discrimination clause of ASM’s constitution, their point is even more important. 

However, the Diversity Committee ignores the fact MCSC missed its deadline to turn in a waiver for any group requesting more than a quarter million dollars and the direct service requirement for GSSF funding was not met by the group. Furthermore, in MCSC’s waiver it failed to answer questions, including prioritizing its services, saying even asking to prioritize them was a racist request. The group also makes good points in the waiver, such as the importance of multiculturalism in students’ futures. But in making that point MCSC asserts the belief that “Money talks...especially to white people,” as a reason why its services help the entire campus. Ironically, a group that wants to end racism and promote racial harmony stereotypes whites in its appeal to fund its mission.

But it is not just in written words where MCSC and ASM are complacent to a destructive campus climate. At the Feb. 29 open forum, representatives from MCSC exercised their rights to free speech. In doing so, they alleged SSFC chair Sarah Neibart is “culturally incompetent,” berating her and SSFC for denying MCSC funding. Their reasoning was SSFC denied the group funding because it does not understand other cultures. In reality, the group failed to turn in paperwork and committed wage violations. It is a disturbing trend to see MCSC again allege racism to gain support when something does not go its way.

MCSC’s allegations are ridiculous, and many ASM members play along. During the MCSC member’s speaking time, only one ASM member spoke up, not to defend fellow students, but only to ask that the speaker refrain from using the word “bullshit.” No one was allowed to question whether the group was making the campus a more harmonious place, if the group was helping the campus diversify its population or if it the way it reaches out to campus is beneficial to anyone.

The sad fact is that racial inequalities exists, and the campus needs a group with a goal of ending injustices. Just look at the Madison School District where only 50 percent of black students graduate from high school. Our campus diversity levels are below the state’s. MCSC and the ASM Diversity Committee distract from real injustices in the community and puts attention on themselves, their politics and money (MCSC asked for over $400,000 for salaries). Instead of bringing the campus together, it divides it and makes solving community racial issues highly improbable.

This type of exchange is to be expected when money is involved, and as usual, the struggle for money overshadows important objectives. In this case, some proponents of diversity are so inflammatory that it makes it impossible to bridge gaps in understanding. Instead of fostering an environment where students feel comfortable with diversity,  groups perpetuate an “us versus them” culture where assigning and deflecting blame is more important than making changes to ourselves and our culture.

With the language and ideas MCSC and Diversity Committee have been using, understanding gets lost quickly. Calling someone racist or culturally incompetent when they are not is no way to help end racism on campus and it is definitely no way to secure funding. When groups claim racism when it does not exist, as MCSC and Diversity Committee have been doing, it will give their claims less credence in the future. But worst of all, doing so leads to alienating other students, just the opposite of what diversity-minded groups should be doing. 

And unfortunately, this is where our campus climate seems to be: alienation.

Matt Beaty is a junior majoring in mathematics and computer science. Please send all feedback to

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