UW-Madison chancellor announces steps to address racial inequity on campus

Uw Madison Chancellor Becky Blank

MADISON, Wis. — University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank has announced a series of initiatives and programs geared toward addressing systemic racial inequity throughout the university’s infrastructure.

In a statement shared Wednesday, Blank said she hopes the new commitments will help change the university on a foundational level.

“As someone who has benefited from White privilege, my first action must be to listen with humility and empathy – to faculty and staff, to students, and to others who love UW and also recognize its shortcomings,” Blank said in the statement. “Although the Black Lives Matter movement was the catalyst, these conversations touched on many issues and identities – Asian and Asian-American, Latinx, LGBTQ+, Native American and people with disabilities.”

Among the commitments are promises to raise $10 million for recruiting more students, faculty and staff of color, make the university’s Our Wisconsin diversity workshops mandatory for all incoming first-year students, create an Office of Inclusive Education within Student Affairs to develop programming focused on educating students on race, identity and inclusion.

According to Blank, the initiatives are part of an effort to relieve the burden of anti-racist work from the shoulders of people of color.

“We have a moment of opportunity on campus right now. I believe that more of our faculty, staff and students – particularly those who are NOT from marginalized communities – understand the need to engage in these efforts. We need to take advantage of this opportunity,” Blank said. “This is not something that our underrepresented communities can or should be burdened with; it is on all of us to listen, read, reflect and work towards change.”

Blank also cited the university’s ongoing Diversity Forums as an example of work the university has done in previous years to highlight diversity and inclusion on campus. Blank said this year’s forum will feature Robin DiAngelo, author of “White Fragility,” as the keynote speaker.

The proposed actions to fight racism and inequity on campus, follow numerous instances of students calling on the university to work toward creating a more inclusive and anti-racist environment. One petition calling for a series of changes intended to “keep Black Badgers safe” has more than 8,750 signatures.

In late June, a group of UW-Madison students called for the removal of the university’s statue of President Abraham Lincoln citing Lincoln’s problematic past. “Just because he was anti-slavery doesn’t mean he was pro-Black,” Nalah McWhorter, the president of the Wisconsin Black Student Union, said.

Blank said she was in favor of keeping the statue where it currently sits at the top of Bascom Hill.

In her statement, Blank mentioned that a public history project intended to share the history of prejudice on campus is still in the works. Blank said she plans to use her social media platforms to periodically “highlight the uncomfortable truths of the university’s past.”