UWO works to improve inclusivity

Administrators are thinking about how we interact with each other, who we bring on campus to educate, the campus and ourselves. Its a personal commitment to having a diverse and inclusive environment. - Sylvia Carey-Butler, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Support of Inclusive Excellence

Joseph Schulz, News writer

UW Oshkosh can become more inclusive to students from all backgrounds, but it will take diligence and a personal commitment to having a diverse and inclusive environment, said a UW Oshkosh administrator.

Sylvia Carey-Butler, associate vice chancellor for academic support of inclusive excellence, outlined the five pillars of the Inclusive Excellence program during a Nov. 19 listening session with students: curriculum and research, environmental/campus climate, faculty and staff, human resources and students.

“Those are the overarching things, but we’re getting at more nuanced issues under each of those topics and what we need to do in building a plan that addresses those things,” she said.

Carey-Butler said administrators are working to make campus more inclusive through procedures such as compliance training in new hires.

“Administrators are thinking about how we interact with each other, who we bring on campus to educate, the campus and ourselves,” Carey-Butler said. “It’s a personal commitment to having a diverse and inclusive environment.”

She said getting student feedback is important because students are the campus’ main consumers.

“If we’re making decisions but we’re not including students in those discussions, then we might have a great idea, but we could have a better idea with having student voices,” Carey-Butler said.

Oshkosh Student Association President Ronisha Howard said the University cares about student opinions and making the campus more inclusive.

“Chancellor Leavitt is looking at ways to retain students currently on campus,” Howard said. “It’s a process; I believe they’re working on that now.”

Student representative of the Inclusive Excellence Committee Alina Xiong said UWO can improve its inclusivity by incorporating diversity training into its curriculum.

“I definitely think there are a lot of groups that are left out,” Xiong said. “I think students of color need more support, … but people in power, faculty members, we need their support. We need them to show us they care.”

Carey-Butler said that it is important for students to understand others from different backgrounds because we live in a diverse global society.

“If we are admitting, educating and graduating students, we need to prepare them for a world that reflects that diversity,” Carey-Butler said. “If the institution doesn’t reflect that diversity, then how can we prepare students to have those experiences and tools to live in a diverse world?”

Xiong said she believes that the administrators care about making campus more inclusive, but because it’s such a broad issue, it’s difficult for them to address.

“They know things are missing and we need to work on things; I just think it’s a little too big,” Xiong said. “I know for a fact that they are aware that it is going on.”

Carey-Butler said the University is working on strategic enrollment management, a process designed to help recruit and retain students from a variety of backgrounds.

“We have developed the framework where we can look at how we can increase enrollment and how we can make this a more viable campus for students, which is why we’re addressing international students, transfer students and commuter students,” Carey-Butler said.

Howard said UWO has improved in terms of inclusiveness since she came to the campus in 2014.

“I think now they have better tools and more faculty that are more aware,” Howard said. “There’s more openness around the youth that’s here today than it was back then, being more accepting of things like LGBTQ, minority students and students with different economic status.”

Xiong said despite the improvements made by the University, she has faced racial discrimination on campus.

“As a music student, I used to take voice lessons because I was unable to pronounce vowels the way my professor wanted me to, [so] he automatically assumed I was Chinese,” Xiong said. “He asked, ‘Well, what do you speak? Mandarin?’ I explained that I speak Hmong.”

Carey-Butler said everyone has to continuously work to fight racism in our society.

“I think a lot of people said that after we had our first African-American president we were done, we were where we needed to be,” Carey-Butler said. “We have to be diligent, we have to focus on it and continue to work on it because all that it takes is someone with an ideology that’s narrow to change the environment.”