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Friday, May 24, 2024
Ethnic Studies

UW-Madison staff and students gathered Wednesday to discuss a proposed consolidation of the ethnic studies departments.

Representatives and students discuss future of ethnic studies on campus

Representatives from each of the ethnic studies programs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison held a town hall meeting Wednesday to discuss the future of their respective programs.

Multiple panels consisting of both faculty members and students in each department presented about the past, present and future of ethnic studies at UW-Madison. They also responded to questions and comments about the various programs.

Discussion focused mainly on the proposed consolidation of the four programs—the Department of Afro-American Studies, the American Indian Studies Program, the Asian American Studies Program and the Chican@ and Latin@ Studies Programs—into one Ethnic Studies Department.

Members of the four programs said that each is too significant to be compacted into one department with the other three. Many argued that while the programs are related and can collaborate, it does not mean they could be consolidated into one department.

Professor Michael Thornton, among others who spoke at the event, suggested the proposal came about mainly for budgetary purposes and suggested the programs need to be recognized as a “family,” but should be distinguished as having their own merits.

“Money has always been here,” said Jesus Salas, who served as a regent from 2004 to 2007 on the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents.

“It’s a matter of priority, it is a matter of political power,” Salas said, while urging students to voice their opinions on maintaining support for ethnic studies programs.

Also proposed was the notion of forming each program into its own separate department. Professor Sandra Adell emphasized each program’s “distinct history” that could be lost in a consolidation.

“We are already collaborating,” Adell said. “Collaboration doesn’t need to mean consolidation.”

The Associated Students of Madison took a similar stance in the debate over consolidation by drafting a resolution combining the programs.

The resolution urges university officials to “support the autonomy of these four programs and departments, and support the financial and educational security” of the ethnic studies programs.

Meetings regarding the future of the ethnic studies programs will continue to be held in the coming weeks.

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