Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Update

August 31, 2020

As we continue to prepare for the start of fall semester, I recognize that we are returning during troubling times.  A student recently described our current circumstances as impacted by two pandemics:  COVID-19 and racial injustice.  The reoccurring instances of racial injustice and violence in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and nationally have led to a range of feelings including fear, anger, and despair among members of our university community, as well as raised many questions and concerns. This is an extremely complex, emotional, and uncertain time, and as a university community, we must be supportive and respectful of one another.

Much has occurred regarding equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts at UW-Stout since writing my July 12th message to campus when I emphasized the need for our campus to “do better” and “commit to improvement.”  After convening the Diversity Bridge Team to listen to suggestions, we organized three listening sessions for employees and students of color.  Faculty and staff governance chairs and the Coordinator of the Inclusive Excellence Action Plan joined me for the employee listening session, and the Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and student governance leaders joined me for the two student listening sessions.  As I have reported in recent employee forums and Chancellor Advisory Committee meetings, the following are some of the common issues that were raised during the listening sessions:

  • Treatment of faculty and staff of color by colleagues, students, and outside community
  • Lack of awareness of the needs of our students of color
  • Recruitment and retention of employees and students of color (what this requires long-term)
  • Microaggressions
  • Faculty evaluations (for those who teach certain subjects and courses, and for faculty of color generally) ​
  • Diversity versus inequity
  • Need for a senior diversity officer
  • Location of Multicultural Student Services (desire for a more centralized location)​​
  • Need to acknowledge the importance of change and stop "sweeping things under the rug"
  • Not the job of employees or students of color to educate others about trauma
  • Racial and Ethnic Studies requirement, content, and delivery
  • General pedagogy
  • Need for mandatory diversity training for employees

During the summer, immediate steps have been taken to begin to address some of these areas:

  • The Inclusive Excellence Action Plan has been revised and will move forward for review by the Strategic Planning Group
  • Multicultural Student Services will have a remote office in Price Commons beginning fall semester
  • The search for a new Multicultural Student Services Director continues
  • Faculty and staff equity, diversity, and inclusion professional development is being planned starting in 2020-2021 and spanning multiple years
  • Changes have been made to faculty and instructional staff recruiting processes to more intentionally improve the EDI aspects of the process
  • Student equity, diversity, and inclusion training has been expanded for fall semester
  • A series of resource guides for self-education for faculty, staff, and students is being developed
  • EDI subcommittees associated with each governance body are under consideration (subcommittees already exist for University Staff Senate and Stout Student Association)
  • Discussions are underway regarding the role of a senior diversity officer at Stout

These actions are just the beginning of our pathway towards improvement.  Please know that I remain committed to continuing to ensure that Stout strives to be a leader in transformational change around inclusive excellence. True, systemic change must begin somewhere, and I am committed to seeing it happen at UW-Stout.

With gratitude,

Katherine P. Frank