During the beautiful months of February and March, UW-Madison was once again exposed for the racist, intolerant environment students of color encounter on any given day. The exposé started when an elder of the Ho-Chunk tribe was taunted with war-cry chants during a Native American ceremony at the Dejope Residence Hall — a hall named to honor a Native American tribe that houses students of a university built upon Native American effigy mounds.
In the following weeks, multiple — and particularly visceral and profane — incidents of racism were endured. Two students were spat upon while their heritage was demeaned and their place at this university doubted. These two brave students sharing their stories inspired a multitude to share their own stories that had long been silent through the hashtags #therealuw and #uwsnubs. This garnered the attention of university officials.
These realities are neither novel nor unexpected for UW-Madison. In 2000, UW-Madison admissions famously photoshopped the face of a black student in recruitment literature only to be caught and humiliated. Ironically, I often feel that student is emblematic of my experience at this university. Nevertheless, all of this is backdropped by the globally embarrassing histrionics of Donald Trump’s campaign for president; the local and national Black Lives Matter movement; and the great demographic change the United States is undergoing as we speak.
Students of color cannot be accused of being edentulous. We have specific policy proposals that we believe will foster a more culturally tolerant and intelligent campus. Among them, adopting inclusive and holistic admissions standards; funding multicultural student organizations and requiring freshman to take cultural intelligence classes before enrollment. These proposals are similar to responsible drinking and sexual assault courses we are already required to take. Perhaps during the first few weeks of dorm living, students should participate in community-building exercises to further understand the heritage of their neighbors.
UW-Madison loves to boast about student enrollment from far-flung areas across the world. If the university wants to genuinely boast its diversity, I think building, supporting, and strengthening cultural institutions, the way we support fraternities and sororities, is not too much to ask for.
I think these policies make sense. UW-Madison loves to boast about student enrollment from far-flung areas across the world. If the university wants to genuinely boast its diversity, I think building, supporting, and strengthening cultural institutions, the way we support fraternities and sororities, is not too much to ask for.
Too be sure, our voices are not falling on deaf ears, per se. In a campus-wide e-mail, Chancellor Rebecca Blank assured students of her administration’s commitment to a welcoming and inclusive campus that reflects our diversity. Chancellor Blank also announced a pilot program for cultural intelligence similar to one outlined above. If UW-Madison is serious about developing global leaders, this is a good first step. In our globalized economy, which no longer adheres to traditional borders, cultural intelligence has become just as important — if not more — as general and emotional intelligence. Indeed, as our global village evolves and becomes more interconnected, global leaders must become ever-more well-versed in the systems, practices, and people from different cultures for success.
Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics [public policy] can change a culture and save it from itself.”
We are not seeking to police conversations or limit First Amendment rights. We are seeking to encourage more enlightened and informed dialogue between students of various heritages. When protests and demonstrations erupted at Mizzou, Yale, UW-Madison, and colleges and universities nationwide, students were protesting the right to a climate conducive to learning and forming a positive identity of oneself — if not as humans, then as consumers of a college education.