UWEC reaches for ethnic, racial equity

UW-Eau Claire is preparing a new effort to achieve ethnic and racial equity on campus.

Steve Tallant, provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs, said the university will create a team in January to study ethnic and racial equity as part of the “Equity Scorecard” program.

“We want equity,” Tallant said. “We want students of color to have equal access.”

The program looks at university departments and programs and considers:

How many students of various ethnicities and races are in university departments and programs.

How many of those students remain in their departments and programs.

How welcoming the institution is to those students.

How students of various backgrounds perform.

Tallant heard about other UW System schools using the program to identify and remedy inequities on their campuses, so he approached the System about participating. Eau Claire will join other UW schools in identifying problems and solutions in a process Tallant expects to take about a year and a half.

The research team could include faculty, staff and students, though administrators haven’t decided on specifics, Tallant said.

Students of varying ethnic and racial backgrounds offered a range of reactions to the plan.

Some students said they saw the benefit of identifying and ending ethnic and racial inequities on campus.

Junior Charlton Anderson, who is Korean-American, had mixed feelings. He said in most cases, ethnicity or race wouldn’t likely affect the majors or programs students select – making the program a partial waste.

But studying student performance and how the institution works in relation to ethnicity and race might be useful, he said.

“It’s good to be consistent,” in how the university grades and treats people, he said.

Others were more skeptical, saying ethnicity and race aren’t relevant to enrollment or performance in any way.

Some students were concerned that such attention to ethnicity and race could lead to opportunities that aren’t based on performance.

When asked what the standard or goal of the program would be, Tallant said simply “equity.”

The program will not establish any sort of quota for ethnic and racial equity, he said, but will look for indications of inequity and work to reduce them.

Student Senate President Ray French said he has been hoping the university would implement the scorecard since he heard about it last spring.

He thinks the study will yield more specific data than traditional ethnic and racial studies.

“It’s a new perspective,” he said. “It’s not the same statistics.”

The intent of such data, he said, is not to place people in categories, but to see if there are any troubling trends.

If certain people aren’t enrolling, staying or performing well in a major, it suggests a problem with society or the university, not the people, he said.

“If people of a certain race are not doing well in a program, there’s a reason behind that.”