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UW-Eau Claire to Assess Equity of Outcomes for Students of Color

RELEASED: June 6, 2008

EAU CLAIRE — The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has begun a yearlong process of assessing its performance with regard to equitable outcomes for students of color.

With support from the UW System, UW-Eau Claire is part of the second cohort of UW System campuses to participate in the Equity Scorecard process, developed at the Center for Urban Education at the University of Southern California.

Dr. Steven Tallant Dr. David Shih
Dr. Steven Tallant
Dr. David Shih

UW-Eau Claire representatives requested to be a part of the second cohort after hearing campuses in the first cohort report their results to the UW System Board of Regents and being impressed with the quality of the findings, said Dr. Steven Tallant, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.

"The Equity Scorecard process doesn't point blame," Tallant said. "It points out the realities of inequities on your campus. This is an initiative that I'm very pleased we're undertaking."

An "evidence team" comprising eight UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff members will look at existing institutional data, disaggregating it by race and ethnicity, to learn how students of color fare in four key areas: access, retention, institutional receptivity and excellence (the latter including students' course grades, grade-point averages, honors and awards, and co-curricular program participation).

"'Equity is really the key word in this process," said Dr. David Shih, UW-Eau Claire associate professor of English and evidence team leader. "It's very different from other words used to discuss students of color, such as 'diversity.' Certainly diversity is a part of the discussion, but equity is the goal. You can't really talk about student success until you have equitable outcomes."

For example, because approximately .5 percent of UW-Eau Claire students are African-American, the goal is that at least that same percentage of African-American students participates in co-curricular programming such as study abroad and the Honors Program, Shih said.

A goal of the Equity Scorecard process is to foster "equity mindedness" in the UW-Eau Claire campus community, Shih said, noting that equity mindedness differs from other cognitive frames often used when looking at issues regarding students of color: (1) deficit mindedness, which explains a lack of equity by placing the burden of responsibility on students of color, and (2) a diversity frame, which promotes inclusiveness but sees racism and stereotyping as coming from individuals rather than from structures and institutions.

"Equity mindedness is about outcomes, and it's about how the institution is responsible for those equitable outcomes," Shih said.

The work of the evidence team will not include gathering new data, but will consist of finding new ways to analyze and present data the university already has, Shih said. In addition to Shih, team members include Dr. Robin Beeman, associate professor of nursing; Dr. Carol Langer, associate professor of social work; Dr. Scott Lester, associate professor of management and marketing; Andrew Nelson, institutional planner; Teresa O'Halloran, assistant to the chancellor for affirmative action; Patti See, senior student services coordinator in the Academic Skills Center; and Dr. Martin Wood, professor of English and University Senate chair.

In the coming months, the team will produce four interim reports focusing on the key Equity Scorecard areas of access, retention, institutional receptivity and excellence. The team will present UW-Eau Claire's complete Equity Scorecard to the chancellor and the university community in March 2009.

"We want to disseminate this information to everybody at this university, from administrators to program directors to faculty and staff, so they can be aware of how they might be maintaining or reducing gaps in equity," Shih said.

Based on the data presented in the Equity Scorecard, the university can develop and implement strategies to close any gaps in equity for students of color, he said.

"This can be a transformative process for everyone who works at this university," Shih said. "We want them to be involved and responsive."



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