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UW-River Falls works toward campus inclusivity

March 2, 2012

Inclusivity and diversity at UW-River Falls has become an issue that not only students actively participate in, but faculty and staff also play a big part in as well. Some faculty and staff have made it their top priority to make sure inclusivity and diversity is represented and showcased on the UWRF campus.

The Diversity and Inclusivity Committee, which is part of Faculty Senate, are discussing ways to bring guest speakers to campus to talk about related issues and are also looking into the hiring processes for faculty and staff and making them more inclusive.

“We are always engaging and trying to do programming,” said Cynthia Kernahan, the chair of the Diversity and Inclusivity Committee. There was a speaker brought to campus last month to talk about the stereotype threat. The office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion partnered with the Diversity and Inclusivity Committee of Faculty Senate, used assistance from the UW System Minority Retention Grant to make this possible and accessible for UWRF students, faculty and staff. These recent committees, events and issues have sprung up because of past inappropriate actions made by members of the campus community.

“The community rallied through hate,” said Blake Fry, special assistant to the chancellor.

Negative actions were taken and made into positives by the UWRF students through a process of change. On campus today, there are committees, clubs and offices that address issues of inclusivity and diversity. “Things have been getting better overall,” said Chief Diversity Officer of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Office Andriel Dees, in an email. “Our community continues to grow in awareness of the importance in understanding each other and the various perspectives and backgrounds that make our community diverse.” Students are also making sure that the University is allowing programs and groups to promote diversity and inclusivity across campus.

“I feel like the University has done a good job at promoting inclusion and diversity on campus due to many programs and organizations the University has provided for students who may feel excluded, students who feel they do not have a voice, and minorities groups,” said Zee Lue Xiong, president of the Asian American Student Association, in an email.

The UWRF campus offers many programs for students of all backgrounds to be involved together and work towards a more diverse and inclusive campus. The director of Student Life, Paul Shepherd said, “I think our strength on campus when it comes to inclusivity and diversity are the programming opportunities that are offered for all students.”

Student Life offers information and events on their website for students. They are invited to go there and read about how they could get involved with the diverse life on campus. Offering events and groups to students and faculty of the University is very important in maintaining a community on campus.

“What we as students and staffs do need to recognize, is that people who do feel exclusion, minorities and people of color, may have had a prolonged painful experience with inclusion,” said Xiong. “It may be difficult for individuals to break out of their shells to feel the inclusion and diverse feel on campus.”

The different ways campus will be notified of events or groups to join is through Falcon Daily or by word of mouth. Sometimes the faculty and staff will be notified in meetings and be made apart of them.

“Currently our main project is working to set up an event to make inclusivity and diversity more widely known around campus so that students are educated on the matter and prepared to stand up if need be,” said Kayla Edstrom, the Student Senate Inclusivity and Diversity Issues director.