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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Student Inclusion Coalition and campus partnership progress report to address UW-Madison climate, diversity and inclusion

“Your ‘home’ was built upon someone else’s home.”

“If this is ‘home,’ why am I the only one who looks like me?”

“This ‘home’ is destroying our community spaces.” 

“You tokenize us for recruitment but ignore our contributions.”

One year after a 2019 UW-Madison Homecoming video incited widespread criticism and sparked discussion about the role of students of color in campus life, quotes like the aforementioned can be found in a video released by the university’s Student Inclusion Coalition (SIC). The Coalition, which was formed in response to the 2019 incident, created this year’s video in order to allow for students to not only undo the wrongs of last year’s exclusive video, but also to relay students’ experiences of campus climate, diversity and inclusion. 

The video aimed to highlight the work that SIC — in partnership with UW Student Affairs, the Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement (DDEEA) and the Wisconsin Alumni Association (WAA) — has done in the past year to address inclusivity-based issues on the UW-Madison campus. 

Last year, students of color were excluded from the 2019 Homecoming video, which celebrated the UW student body and campus experience. The historically African American Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority — which was asked as a chapter to participate in the making of the video — was the only organization of people of color group on campus included and did not make the final cut in the Wisconsin Alumni Association (WAA) student Homecoming Committee’s production.  

The video, which has since been deleted, “was symbolic of the daily challenges and negative experiences of Black and Brown students on campus,” according to an Oct. 23 news release

Reactions motivated the creation of the SIC, which seeks to improve the experiences of students of color at UW-Madison and connect multicultural student groups on campus.

In the news release, SIC outlined their demands of the university to better include all student communities on campus: 

  1. Publicly recognize the sacrifice of past students of color in addressing systemic racism and oppression on campus.
  2. Recognize the educational value of marginalized identity-based student affinity groups in supporting student engagement, belonging and retention.
  3. Improve the support system for marginalized students on campus.
  4. Restructure the student Homecoming Committee to ensure broader and more authentic engagement for marginalized groups on campus.
  5. Create a coordinated infrastructure to respond to acts of structural oppression.

“Establishing a home where marginalized students can feel safe, valued and included — a place where we can be our most authentic selves is SIC’s ultimate goal,” said SIC co-founder and leader Nyla Mathis. “The university is making great progress, but a marathon still lies ahead to ensure that the history and contribution of Black and Brown students is not lost, taken for granted or forgotten.”

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In accordance with these goals, the SIC’s campus partnerships — DDEEA, WAA and Student Affairs — developed and facilitated working groups alongside leaders from the student task force. They met over the course of the past year with the intention of recognizing SIC partnership priorities. 

Representatives of diverse student communities went on to work with the WAA to plan the student Homecoming 2020. These representatives will also be a permanent part of the Homecoming Committee, as it shifts from WAA to Student Affairs next year. 

An extra $50,000 was allocated toward the Multicultural Student Center for student organization grants and aims to increase funding for cultural heritage month celebrations. 

Furthermore, the establishment of the Office of Inclusion Education, the requirement that all new undergraduate and transfer students complete the Our Wisconsin program and the university’s plan to raise funds for a landmark that will honor the historically African American sororities and fraternities on campus are acknowledged by the university as other important developments produced by the working groups this past year. 

“Our work with SIC this year really demonstrated the necessity and power of collaboration in creating change,” said DDEA Interim Chief Diversity Officer Cheryl Gittens. “It remains important for us to continue this shared work with SIC and with others dedicated to making UW a place where future generations feel welcome and included.”

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