UW budgets $4 million for system-wide diversity program

The University of Wisconsin System’s Board of Regents approved a $42 million budget proposal Thursday, a good portion of which will go to expand its already-failing diversity programs.

Campus Reform recently reported that participants in a UW, Madison diversity program make up only a small percentage of each freshman class, despite the program’s intended goal of increasing diversity among the student body.

Meanwhile, The Journal Times adds that participants in the program actually graduate at lower rates than other low-income and minority students at the university, while a majority of participants in a separate pre-college diversity effort never end up enrolling.

Despite the discouraging report, UW-Madison’s Provost for Diversity and Climate, Patrick Sims, stated that he has no intention of cutting the program, and now his superiors have approved a similar initiative system-wide.

[RELATED: Students demand UW raise sports tickets to fund diversity efforts]

The new program, known as “Fluent,” would receive $4 million of state funding for the upcoming biennium for “cultural fluency” trainings, which all students, faculty, and staff would be required to partake in.

The program is intended to create “a foundation for civility and mutual respect throughout the university experience,” system president Ray Cross said. “This isn’t just our opinion; this is something businesses are demanding.”

Some student leaders, however, disagree with Cross, saying employers care more about an applicant’s skill set than his cultural awareness.

“Students go to college for the freedom to learn what they want. This forceful program will make a university seem like a high school. This program is not readying students for an actual job,” Alex Gordon, student member of UW, Parkside’s Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) chapter, told Campus Reform. “In the real world, an employer cares much more about the skills of a job candidate than whether or not they are culturally diverse.”

[RELATED: Diversity trainings are a sham, Harvard study says]

UW’s Office of University Relations explained that the program is the result of a year-long survey of the Wisconsin community, during which local business leaders affirmed that “cross-cultural experience” is necessary in the work world.

While some students see the potential value in a diversity training, most tend to think that any sort of forced or mandated program will discourage students from actively participating.

“While our differences should be celebrated, I don't believe required diversity training is necessary,” Kyle Beckwith, a member of Turning Point USA at UW, La Crosse, told Campus Reform. “You cannot mandate diversity education. You have to let students and faculty learn about our differences in social settings, the classroom, and on their own. When something is forced onto someone, they are more discouraged to learn.”

Similarly, Cahleel Copus, president of UW, Madison’s YAL chapter and a Campus Reform Campus Correspondent, said the Fluent program is “well-intentioned” but unnecessary, noting that he thinks the “proposed budget increase is not only wasteful but dishonest.

“At UW, Madison, a movement has started that paints the university as racially intolerant. The evidence of this claim comes from a few, isolated incidents last year as well as unsupported, anecdotal evidence in the form of the hashtag "#TheRealUW,” he explained. “There are clear metric improvements in the UW system that regents and professors do not want to speak about because they might lose some support for increased money spent on the UW system.”

Meanwhile, Morgan Paradis, vice president of UW, Milwaukee’s YAL chapter, called the diversity program a “4-million-dollar way for the UW Board members to feel good about themselves while solving nothing.

“You can’t force changes or peace among people,” she added. “The UW system is quite good at throwing away money, but this budget might be its magnum opus of wasteful spending.”

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