MAILED: June 5, 1997|
EAU CLAIRE -- The Eau Claire City Council will hear a report Monday, June 9, about the city's efforts with the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire to explore racial diversity in the Chippewa Valley.
The final report of the three-year-old University/Community Committee on Diversity's work will be presented to council members, with a request that the council discuss whether it wants to continue its support of the project. UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Larry Schnack has said he'd like the cooperative effort to continue, with the city and university identifying ways they could support the effort.
In 1994, Schnack and former City Council President Mark Lewis approved the formation of a committee charged with identifying community needs for such things as education, programs, and opportunities for youth as they relate to diversity.
The committee, which had university and community representatives, met from early 1995 through this spring. After much conversation, the committee organized community roundtable discussions of race relations in the Chippewa Valley in an attempt to raise community understanding of diversity issues and identify areas of community concern.
The Circle of Change, as the roundtable discussion groups came to be known, attracted 130 community members as participants and another 35 people as co-facilitators of the 15 groups. Groups met for two hours a week for four consecutive weeks using materials developed by the committee. The sessions were mediated by the facilitators to ensure all points of view were heard and considered.
Schnack, at the recommendation of the committee, has proposed that formal efforts continue to help Chippewa Valley residents explore racial diversity. He has suggested that a steering committee be formed to lead such an effort.
Schnack made his recommendation after reviewing comments by Circle of Change participants stating their hope that discussion groups continue. Two of the groups have continued to meet on their own because they found the discussions so meaningful, said Joseph Hisrich, chair of the committee.
"I'm especially encouraged that the young people who participated were so enthusiastic," Schnack said, referring to the favorable responses by the high school and Chippewa Valley Technical College students who participated in the group discussions.
While UW-Eau Claire is interested in participating in an ongoing program, it's important that community members continue to shape the agenda and priorities of the committee, with the university acting as a supportive partner, Schnack and committee leaders said.
"Community participants need to have ownership of the process that discusses community attitudes toward diversity, identifies areas requiring change and takes responsibility to pursue this change," the committee's report states.
City Manager Don Norrell asked that committee members summarize its work for council members during Monday's meeting. The council can then decide if and/or how it wants to proceed in relation to continuing the process, he said.
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: June 23, 1997