So many are still hurting from the recent tragedies of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others whose names we may not know. We see the pain; we feel the justified frustration and anger; and we care deeply. The urgency for action and systemic reform in our nation, state, city, and university is palpable. But how can we ensure that this urgency continues a week, month, or year from now? As Student Affairs leaders at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, we want you to know that we are committed – always – to confront and to overcome racial injustice.
Student Affairs is uniquely positioned to engage in anti-racism work. Our efforts touch so many aspects of a student’s Wisconsin Experience, and in our own ways we have opportunities to further conversations about racial justice. Whether through direct service, student employee training, advising, or events, every interaction is a chance to communicate a shared vision of a more equitable future.
Each one of us is called to take action, and that action can take different forms. We’ve read and revisited the powerful statements of support from Chancellor Rebecca Blank and Deputy Vice Chancellor Patrick Sims. Others are using social media as their platform for education; some are donating to causes they believe in; while many are taking to the streets and demanding change through peaceful protest and rallies. The most important thing is that we continue to move toward the same goal – communities where individuals are treated with dignity and respect; where Black lives matter; and where all underrepresented students feel welcome, supported, and safe.
Our goal is to create a Student Affairs culture that inspires staff to pursue anti-racism education and to take action in their areas to support one another and our students.
Here are some of our efforts:
- Our Student Affairs staff gathered in small groups last week to talk about the meaning and impact of recent incidents on ourselves, our colleagues, our students, and our communities. We are organizing similar processing spaces for our students to find support, care, and dialogue. We are committed to continuing these efforts.
- We will be asking our Student Affairs departments to develop formal diversity plans.
- We are deeply listening to our underrepresented students about their experiences at UW–Madison to understand where we’ve fallen short and where we can do better. Our students’ experiences are reflected in our campus climate survey, in the demands made by the Student Inclusion Coalition following the 2019 Homecoming video, and from many stories directly from our student communities. We are committed to working on these goals with our colleagues and student leaders.
- We will continue to support staff education across Student Affairs. We are committed to investing in opportunities for further learning, engagement, and professional development focused on racial justice and social justice.
We will not be perfect in our work, nor is this work every truly “finished.” Many of us, including many in Student Affairs leadership, have the privilege to not have to address institutional and interpersonal racism every day. For those of us with that privilege, we must purposely commit to engaging in this hard work every day – choosing to engage each day can make a difference. We embrace the tough and imperfect conversations and actions we need to shift our culture toward durable, sustainable change. This is what Badgers do.
Lori Reesor, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
Jake Baggott, Associate Vice Chancellor and Executive Director, University Health Services
Mark Guthier, Associate Vice Chancellor and Director, Wisconsin Union
Gabe Javier, Associate Vice Chancellor – Identity and Inclusion
Christina Olstad, Dean of Students