Student Senators discuss a more equitable future on campus

Co-chairs of the EDI Implementation Team answer senator’s question about the plan


Photo by Kendall Ruchti

Student Senate heard from the co-chairs of Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity Implementation Team about the current state of the plan.

Student Senators participated in discussion after a presentation from the co-chairs of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity Implementation Team at Monday night’s meeting.

David Jones of the English department and Ann Rupnow, entrepreneurship and economic development coordinator, shared some highlights of the current state of the EDI plan. The plan’s key goal is to increase students of color to at least 20 percent, Jones said.

Director of Academic Affairs Mathew Riedel said a common question from students asks why the university is looking to increase students of color to 20 percent when further evaluation needs to occur on how to better serve the current 9 percent.

Rather than racing to obtain the 20 percent, Jones said the EDI Implementation Team advocates looking at what the experience is like on campus for students of color.

“I think what this plan tries to do is emphasize that we’re not going all out to try and recruit any student that may or may not have it in their mind right now to come to UW-Eau Claire,” Jones said. “Instead we really need to look at what’s happening on campus.”

A campus climate survey was conducted last spring, which will help inform the EDI Implementation Team once the results are final, Jones said. The Final Equity Scorecard Report released in 2012 involves identifying how service offices serve students of color and can also help inform the team about campus climate.

However, some of the 20 percent increase will occur naturally as national demographics shift, Jones said.

Riedel said knowing the demographics are expected to shift regardless of the university’s intentions changes how he interprets the plan. Now his main concern is how the campus is going to satisfy and adequately serve students of color on campus, he said.

“In many respects this whole plan is just preparing for what our campus is going to be like in a few years,” Riedel said. “That kind of reframes it for me personally.”

Director of Finance Mary-Laura Samples said Senate at large is interested in getting more involved with the initiative and asked how to do so.

Jones said senators can coordinate more with the communities on campus who host events and speakers. It’s important for students to understand the value in participating in these experiences, he said. Senate can help encourage the urgency of the plan.

Senator Branden Yates said he agreed with the idea of focusing on current students, but asked what kind of outreach will occur to make the jump from 9 to 20 percent.

Jones said part of the strategy is looking at the admissions pool and evaluating who applied and decided not to attend UW-Eau Claire.

Questions to consider include what the student has heard about the campus climate and the impression they received during a campus visit.

Senator Rachel Roddy said she’s impressed with the work that’s been put into the initiative. It’s especially important to make sure a welcoming climate is provided to ensure students don’t feel like a minority, she said.

“Even when you think you’re being inclusive it’s always important to try and be more inclusive,” Roddy said.

Senator Alex Stout said he likes how the plan doesn’t focus on one particular area of concern.

“It’s a broad approach that’s going to be narrowed down into different sub-units and I think that’s really valuable.”

In order to create a more inclusive campus and society, Jones said people need to look at what they’re doing at an individual level.

“We look into our hearts and minds,” Jones said, “and how we relate to people around the country and our own neighborhoods and the world at large.”