Seventeen campus religious groups and the Multicultural Student Center presented a diverse panel of speakers Tuesday to discuss the different aspects of faith and race on the UW-Madison campus.
The panel consisted of two UW-Madison students, Cheyenne Coote and Anna Stamborski, Assistant Dean and Director of the Multicultural Student Center Joshua Moon Johnson, Director of Community Relations Rev. Everett Mitchell and ethnic studies department faculty member Linda Sujin Park.
The discussion began by showing the percentages of different minority groups among the UW-Madison student population. The student demographics were disproportionately lower than Wisconsin’s statewide numbers.
Park said that while the entire student body continued to grow, rates of students of color have actually dropped since the 2008 UW-Madison diversity plan.
“When you go back and look at the 2014 figures, there was actually a drop for everyone except the Latino students on campus,” Park said. “There was a 23 percent drop for African-Americans, a 10 percent drop for Asian-Americans and a 71.5 percent drop for Native Americans on campus.”
The moderator then asked the panelists about their own experiences of racism.
Mitchell, who has been preaching since he was 15, talked about how his faith and experiences in other churches have helped him deal with issues of race.
“I realized that my faith had given me the courage to do something that many people will not ever do, which is to trust that God, who has been fully available to us all, will give us the strength to be in those uncomfortable situations,” Mitchell said.
Most panelists echoed similar sentiments, including that the discussion was one of the best examples of diversity on campus and how important beginning an open and honest dialogue is moving forward.
“I have seen a space like this, it is very diverse in age and in a lot of other ways,” Park said. “It gives me hope to think that people want to have these conversations because I think that’s what’s lacking, the ability to have conversations.”
A dinner followed the discussion and the panelists encouraged members of the audience to openly discuss their own experiences regarding race and faith throughout their time at UW-Madison.