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UW-Eau Claire EDI Rapid Action Task Force announces recommendations

Improving communication, expanding training and increasing support for students, faculty and staff are at the heart of the recommendations the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Rapid Action Task Force delivered to UW-Eau Chancellor James Schmidt to begin the spring semester.

In the wake of two racist incidents that occurred at UW-Eau Claire during the fall semester, Chancellor Schmidt charged the 16-member task force with identifying issues and opportunities to improve the campus culture and better support faculty, staff and students.

After meeting with dozens of stakeholders, reviewing hundreds of responses to a campus survey and researching best practices at educational institutions, the EDI Task Force recommended the following actions be implemented before the end of the spring semester.

The recommendations are as follows:

  • Develop and implement a Restorative Justice Program.
  • Encourage a culture of reporting and responding to hate and bias incidents through a variety of measures to improve the bias incident reporting process.
  • Review, update and expand existing crisis communication plans to better inform and protect the campus community.
  • Expand and enhance EDI training for students, faculty and staff.
  • Take proactive measures to bolster recruitment and retention efforts for diverse international and domestic students, faculty and staff.
  • Update and redesign the EDI website to be easier to navigate and provide improved access to information and resources.
  • Develop and publicize mechanisms to support students, faculty and staff in the aftermath of a bias/hate incident.
  • Engage campus stakeholders in a process to review and update codes of conduct, handbooks, etc., to reflect the university’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusivity.
  • Create regular and ongoing opportunities for connection among campus and community members to engage with each other on topics of equity, diversity and inclusivity.

The task force, which was formed in December 2019, created a comprehensive plan to support these recommendations. The task force’s final report can be found here.

“The Rapid Action Task Force report reflects the extraordinary effort of the committee members who have given so generously of their time over the past few weeks to provide the campus community with thoughtful and challenging recommendations,” Chancellor James Schmidt said. “We aspire to be an inclusive, supportive and antiracist university and the new report will assure that we can take immediate and effective steps to move closer to that goal. I look forward to the upcoming campus conversations and to working with our faculty, staff and students to enhance our accountability, communication and campus culture in support of EDI.”

The task force focused on UW-Eau Claire and UW-Eau Claire – Barron County, and recommended steps the respective campus communities can take to reach the university’s equity, diversity and inclusion goals. The task force prioritized actions that can be implemented by the end of the spring semester.

“The EDI Task Force report recommendations cannot end racism, bias or hate on this or any other campus,” co-chair Jan Larson said. “The recommendations can help us better articulate our values and expectations as a campus community. They can help us support people who are targeted when incidents do occur.  They can help us hold accountable the people who engage in such behavior while providing opportunities for change, growth and healing. And, they can help us further develop a climate and culture that thrives because of its equitable, diverse and inclusive nature.”

Improving communication and accountability, and fostering conversation, from updating content and design of a website to creating opportunities to connect campus and the community, is a thread that runs through the task force’s report. The need for improved communication became clear through the group’s review of surveys and conversations with key stakeholders.

“The task force wishes to extend its sincere appreciation to members of the campus community at both UW-Eau Claire and UW-Eau Claire – Barron County who participated in interviews or meetings with task force members, responded to requests for information, and/or contributed ideas via campus surveys,” co-chair Kim Wudi said. “We hope that our findings and recommendations will encourage even more involvement and constructive dialogue regarding EDI initiatives in the coming weeks and months.”

Seven students served on the task force, which met dozens of times after the group was formed in late December. Ensuring that student voices were central to the discussion was imperative, and the task force is encouraging students to remain involved moving forward.

“The task force really benefited from having many student voices,” co-chair Youssra Bentaalla, a student at UW-Eau Claire, said.

“Each of the students on the task force have been engaged in EDI initiatives through different departments and organizations at UWEC and UWEC-BC, and brought a range of perspectives and backgrounds to the table. We were very lucky to have such passionate and knowledgeable students working to develop the various recommendations.”