Chancellor’s Update: Racial Justice – A Call to Action: Part 1

Dear UWM Faculty, Staff and Students,

In my “A Time for Change” message to you last month, I talked about the need for systemic change to promote racial justice across our campuses and communities. We are taking specific actions but we need to do more, and I promised to communicate further on these important steps.

I will share updates in a moment, but I first wish to thank the many students, faculty, staff and community members who reached out to us to share heartfelt and serious concerns and ideas for how we can do better. We know that our actions, without a doubt, speak louder than words.

For example, the leaders in our divisions of Global Inclusion and Engagement and Student Affairs did an outstanding job with our recent Campus Dialogue on Racial Justice series, which featured three panels, one with faculty, one with students and one with staff. For their commitment and work on the series, I thank Vice Chancellor Joan Prince, Associate Vice Chancellor and Professor Chia Vang, Chief Student Affairs Officer Kelly Haag, and Dean of Students Adam Jussel. I offer special thanks to all of our panel participants including:

Faculty Insights Panel (June 10)

  • Anika Wilson, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of African and African Diaspora Studies
  • Joe Rodriguez, Professor and Chair, Department of History
  • David Pate, Jr., Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Social Work
  • Margaret Noodin, Professor of English and Director, Electa Quinney Institute
  • John Lane Hall, Professor and Upcoming Chair, Department of English

Student Panel (June 26)

  • Destiny Brady, Architecture
  • Chris Chavez, Comparative Ethnic Studies & Latin American, Caribbean, and U.S. Latinx Studies
  • Mia Heredia, Accelerated Criminal Justice
  • Paulina Lim, Clinical Psychology Doctoral Student
  • Kentrell Washington, Master of Social Work Student
  • Emma Mae Weber, Women & Gender Studies

Staff Panel (July 10):

  • Patrick Baldwin, Head Men’s Basketball Coach, Athletics
  • Janey Christoffersen, Graduation Coordinator, Registrar’s Office
  • Michael Doylen, Ph.D., Associate Vice Provost & Director of the UWM Libraries
  • Quincy LaGrant, Undergraduate Recruitment Coordinator, Lubar School of Business
  • Ariel Milton-Kern, Assistant Director, Student Success Center
  • Jaclyn Stoczanyn, Executive Assistant, Development and Alumni Relations
  • Eugene Wakefield, Accountant, Business and Financial Services

And, I extend my thanks to all who joined me in listening to the series. I encourage our campus and larger community to view the series, with links (above) to the programs.

Panelists responded to questions about how current social unrest and protests are affecting them, what type of political and societal reform they hope occurs as a result, and what actions can be taken at UWM. Across the series, key themes included frustration and anger that we find ourselves in the same place, again, with fatigue and tiredness from persons of color; that there is also hope and inspiration that panelists and others can have a more positive impact at UWM; that there is tangible global momentum bringing people and groups together in new ways and causing America to examine its history; that only limited progress on racial justice and equity has been made locally and nationally over the years; that there are concerns that current issues will settle down and become dormant again; that there is fear that no real change will occur, despite the energy and activism occurring today; and that, ultimately, we can all make a difference.

Turning to UWM, similar themes occurred but there were also other directions: question about representativeness in the classroom, in leadership and across campus; questions about progress of and support for students of color, and questions about our police department, among other areas. There was also an important acknowledgement of how challenges and disagreements can lead to opportunities, and that it is incumbent upon us all to imagine and implement real change.

Now, I’ll share a few more of the actions that reflect what we have recently implemented and additional actions that are underway:

  • Towards an Anti-Racist Campus:  A Call for action mini-grants for faculty and staff. We are allocating $100,000 for these grants aimed at ideas and specific actions to address systemic racism on our campus. Details are available here, and we will have a Q&A session regarding the call on July 30 at 9 a.m
  • Twenty members of our faculty, staff and administrators recently completed a race and equity institute through the University of Southern California’s Race and Equity Center. Key learning takeaways and subsequent action steps are being advised by the eight-week module sessions that focused on the foundations of racial inequities in higher education, understanding and identifying implicit bias, reducing bias in the search process, classroom incivility and productive conversations about race and improving campus racial climates.  Updates in subsequent messages will provide more details.
  • A work group has been developing recommendations on mandatory anti-racism training for all faculty, staff and students so that everyone can be part of the solution; their report will be shared in mid-August, with implementation at the beginning of the fall semester.
  • In early August, I will share with you a larger blueprint of actions (A Call to Action, Part II) aimed squarely at increasing our diversity, realizing inclusion and building equity. Drs. Prince, Vang, Perez and I have been developing this blueprint based on campus feedback and suggestions and will seek counsel from many others as we implement this.
  • On Aug. 6, I will kick off a periodic series examining inequities on my WUWM Chancellor’s Report radio programs. Dr. Prince will join me for the first program to discuss racial justice.

This is only a start. I want you to know that, based on these panels, and my dialogue with faculty, staff and students, we are undertaking additional concrete actions. You will see activities in the classroom to enhance diversity and accomplishments in our learning environments, work on selection and promotion for greater equity and inclusion, provisions of greater support for historically marginalized students, and several other areas.

We need your engagement to develop answers to these issues and in that vein will keep the dialogue and action moving forward with continued teaching and learning, enhanced accountability and transparency, and timely report outs around progress. I will not let our guard down.

In closing, I want you to know that I am committed to these actions – as well as to those that will be announced shortly – and to their implementation. UWM can and must own its responsibility for racial justice with a vengeance and all our vigor. I ask you to join me in this endeavor.

Best regards,

Mark A. Mone
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee