With the new semester under way, it’s a good time for us to refocus our attention on UW-Eau Claire’s commitment to diversity and inclusiveness, as well as a time to remind ourselves why this campus value especially strengthens and enriches our university in so many important ways.
A diverse and inclusive campus is fundamental to student learning, to building community among all members of our campus, to reflecting our values in today’s global society, and to preparing our graduates to succeed as professionals and as citizens, able to live and work in societies that are growing increasingly diverse, in our region, around the country and around the world.
For many of our students, college is the first time they have had the opportunity to have real and meaningful interactions with people from different backgrounds. A diverse campus can open a door to a previously unknown world for these students, indeed for all of us.
Diversity expands our students’ ability to think about issues or problems from multiple perspectives. By expanding their view of the world, we encourage their critical thinking and creative problem-solving, and enhance their ability to communicate effectively with people of various backgrounds.
While much work has been done around diversity and inclusivity in the past, our work in this area is never done.
In the last few weeks, we have redoubled our efforts, continuing to work collaboratively with faculty, staff and students to identify short- and long-term strategies that relate to our campus climate and inclusivity.
Among the goals identified for this semester is to raise the profile of the Bias Incident Response Team, a team of faculty, staff, students and administrators that reviews reports of bias/hate incidents on campus. The team, which includes University Police, reviews reports as they are made to determine appropriate actions and offers advice to the Chancellor’s Office and others as needed.
A bias/hate incident is an act of conduct, speech, or expression to which a bias motive is evident as a contributing factor. The team also reviews reports of bias/hate crime, which is a criminal offense committed against a person that is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against race, religion, color, disability, national origin, sexual orientation or ancestry. Anyone aware of an incident or bias/hate crime can file a report.
The Bias/Hate Response Team is working to raise its profile so our campus community knows how to report such incidents so we can as a campus deal with them quickly and effectively. In its fourth year, this team already has responded to a variety of issues but will take specific steps to reach out to the campus community this semester.
This specific effort is part of a semester-long plan of action to support several initiatives related to diversity and inclusivity. I will detail these initiatives in subsequent communication here and in conversations around campus.
For instance, we are working to improve our support for faculty and staff in the area of professional development that addresses climate issues.
We also are looking at new ways to bring students into the conversation regarding diversity and inclusivity. Student leaders have told me they want to be part of identifying issues and helping to identify possible solutions as well as evaluating the effectiveness of those solutions. Given this campus’ long tradition of working collaboratively with our student leaders, we are looking for even more ways to bring our engaged students into these ongoing discussions.
I will make sure that you are kept fully and regularly informed about conversations on these issues and I hope to continue to hear from you in any way that is convenient. I'd like to thank all of you who have taken the time to speak with me and share ideas with the campus community. This has been inspiring, and it is making a difference!