The UW-Madison Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement (DDEEA) will be hosting its annual UW-Madison Diversity Forum on October 27 and 28. However, this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event will be held completely online.

Despite the drastic change in the event’s formatting, Mary Carr Lee, the communications director for the DDEEA, noted that the virtual space allows for more participants.

“It’s exciting in that we are able to have more registrants. [At the Union South,] we were limited to about 1,200 people, but virtually we really don’t have a limit, we’re up to over 3,700 people registered so far,” she told Madison365.

In the wake of the current polarizing social and political climate, the chosen theme of this year’s Diversity Forum is “The Pandemic Effect: Exposing Racism & Inequities.”

The two-day long event will feature a variety of events including speeches from community organizers, activists, researchers, and authors as well and workshops and small group discussions relating to diversity and inclusion.

Dr. Robin DiAngelo

The forum will also feature two keynote addresses from Dr. Robin DiAngelo, author of “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism,” and Austin Channing Brown, author of “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness.”

Lee noted that she is especially excited about Brown’s keynote due to the nature of Brown’s oratory methods.

“Her preferred style is to open it up for dialogue, to give just a brief address, but then to really have a conversation, where she takes questions and does mini keynotes on those questions,” Lee said.

Brown’s questions will be asked by three students, all of whom have been chosen prior to the event. After each speech, participants will be invited to join breakout room discussions.

For the first time this year, the UW-Madison Diversity Forum has asked the community to send proposals regarding current racial inequities and issues to be presented during breakout room discussions. 

Of the 49 proposals submitted, only 14 will be featured and will occur after Brown’s keynote speech.

Lee noted that, after the event, UW-Madiosn will be making strides to implement concrete and measurable change in regards to the issues discussed during the forum.

“We, immediately after the forum, do a survey from all participants. Every attendee is asked to rate the different breakouts and what they thought and what they’d like to see come. So immediately after this forum, we would be reviewing our survey. And then we, actually have a committee on campus, The CDCC, The Campus Diversity, and Climate Committee, and we always meet with them about our diversity forum to look at success points and next steps,” said Lee.

Registration is still ongoing and can be found at this link.