Recommendations From The
Collective of Black Alumni and
From The Collective of Black Alumni and Their Allies
On October 29, 2016, a photo of a University of Wisconsin football spectator in a racially offensive costume went viral and the University
responded. Black and African American Alumni and their allies found the incident and the University’s initial response unacceptable. Through
social media, Alumni and their allies formed a collective (the “Collective”) and wrote a letter of concern to UW-Madison administration. The
letter condemned the incident and response and requested a meeting during UW-Madison’s Homecoming weekend. The meeting’s purpose was
to discuss ways to disrupt a pattern of recurring hate and bias incidents within the UW-Madison community, and inadequate or insensitive
responses. The Chancellor and University leadership responded to the letter and hosted a meeting on November 12, 2016 with members of the
Collective. Later that afternoon, the Collective held an open forum to generate recommendations from various members of the UW-Madison
community, including alumni visiting for Homecoming weekend, to facilitate forward progress. The meeting and forum are summarized below
and the residual list of recommendations follows.
November 12, 2016 Meeting among UW-Madison Leadership and members of the Collective -- Summary
Ten (10) alumni and three (3) current students attended the meeting and presented the concerns of current students, Black alumni, and their
allies. Of the 10 alumni, 2 are also current employees of the University, 3 are active community members, and 2 are former employees of the
University, one of whom often worked in consultation with previous executive leadership of the University. Of the 3 students, 2 were current
For the University, the Chancellor, Provost, Vice Provost of Diversity and Climate, Vice Provost of Student Life, and Dean of Students were in
attendance. Those requested at the meeting but not in attendance were the General Counsel, Chief of Police and Athletic Director. The President
of the WAA, and Director of Diversity and Inclusion from Athletics also attended.
The Black Alumni, allies, and current students provided and adhered to the following agenda:
1. Opening of Meeting and Discussion of Personal Experiences of Students and Alumni (Black Alumni)
2. Discussion on the Impact of Nebraska Game Incident (Current Law Student)
3. Current Student Experiences (Current Undergraduate Students)
4. Discussion on value of diversity and creating an inclusive climate at UW-Madison -- for all students, the success of the institution,
and alumni relations (Black Alumni and Allies)
5. Shaping the Alumni role in this process (Black Alumni)
6. Recommendations for Moving Forward / Process (Black Alumni)
7. University Perspective (University Representatives)
8. Next Steps (All)
The meeting generated a forward thinking discussion that was mostly solution oriented. The alumni shared stories of their own experiences
that mirror the October 29th, 2016 Nebraska Game incident as evidence that there is a long history to the type of traumas and challenges
students of color have faced at UW-Madison. The conversation was a genuine, authentic discussion. The Chancellor apologized for the initial
response to the Nebraska game incident, which had been focused on a legal/free speech framework. She referenced the subsequent statement
and apology that she had issued after the initial statement, but also personally apologized to the meeting attendees on the same grounds -- that
the first statement was inadequate.
Multiple administrators were tearful and expressed that they understand the urgency and significance of the problem, and very much want the
climate to improve. The Chancellor provided a fact sheet detailing programs and initiatives that had been recently launched to address
diversity, inclusion and campus climate. Administration acknowledged that although there have been many initiatives and much work to
address climate in the past, UW-Madison continues to have much work to do, to continue to make real change in its climate and community.
The University administration expressed current concerns about keeping campus safe for all students. For students of color in particular,
administration stated that the presidential election the week prior created an additional, urgent need for attention to their safety. They noted that
they and other campuses’ leaders had been hearing of a concerning influx of students feeling threatened and unsafe.
Black Alumni expressed that the University’s stance must shift from reactive to proactive and that they and fellow alumni are willing to play a
role in that progress. They also reflected on their sense of loyalty and care to UW-Madison which drives their desire to stay involved; and,
expressed the complexity of having such pride in their alma mater while they also observe racist incidents occur and then find the University’s
responses or approach to be less than satisfactory. The University acknowledged that many of the non-minority students and alumni must also
bear the burden of committing to diversity and inclusion initiatives to foster sustainable change. Attendees at the meeting agreed that having
an inclusive campus is not just an “issue” for campus, but is essential to a successful University, in terms of recruitment, retention,
reputation, and development.
By the end of the Meeting, it became clear that the WAA can be an avenue for immediate Alumni impact and two Alumni were invited to serve
on the President’s Advisory Board. Further, consensus formed around the need for intentional and streamlined communication among the
Alumni, the Madison community, the University and its various representatives and committees working on climate, and the Division of
Intercollegiate Athletics. Alumni indicated that they would host a forum to collect more information and recommendations and follow up with
University Administration with a final list of the recommendations and intended to publish them as well.
Open Forum Summary
Immediately following the meeting, Alumni and the Center for Academic Excellence co-hosted a public forum to obtain input for the Collective’s
recommendations from various key stakeholders. For about 2 hours, about 30 students, faculty, staff, alumni, and others met in small and large
groups to brainstorm and discuss solutions and recommendations. From the small and large group discussions, the following themes emerged:
1. Need for transparent processes and improved communication from University Administration
2. Need for community and broad-based input on decision-making about approaches to climate on campus
3. Leverage faculty’s role in diversity, inclusion, and climate on campus
4. Increase of resources for diversity and inclusion programming and initiatives
These themes informed the recommendations that follow in the next section.
The following 10 recommendations are explained in more detail below:
1. Improve communication about diversity, inclusion, and climate progress, programs and initiatives within the University as well as
among University units, greater Madison and Wisconsin community, and alumni.
2. Intentionally include diversity and inclusion throughout the student experience, including during new student orientation and curriculum
3. Require diversity and inclusion components throughout employee hiring, onboarding, and evaluation processes.
4. Update the Conduct Code to enable punishment of perpetrators of hate/bias, especially when student’s intent is not malicious yet the
impact creates a racially hostile environment. Students should sign the Conduct Code.
5. Create a robust response and support protocol to hate and bias incidents that is at least as sophisticated and interdepartmental as the
campus sexual assault response protocol; ensure campus structures support this work.
6. Address the psychological and emotional impact of hate and bias incidents and a racially hostile environment on students; 10
counseling sessions is likely not enough to do so.
7. Collect and share data on student learning outcomes related to diversity and inclusion.
8. Rethink alumni philanthropy to enable investments of time, talent, and cultural capital -- not just financial commitments.
9. Work with other Predominantly White Institution Chancellors to share and implement strategies for uprooting systemic racism from
institutions of higher education.
10. Provide a transparent network and methods for key stakeholders to obtain information about, as well as provide feedback and
generate ideas to continue to improve upon, diversity and inclusion initiatives on campus.
1. Improve communication about diversity, inclusion, and climate progress, programs and initiatives within the University as well as among
the University, Madison community, and alumni.
More transparent and consistent communication is necessary among campus leadership and units, its current students, faculty, and staff; as
well as with alumni and surrounding community. This is evident in that many are unaware of what plans or improvements the University has
made over the years to address diversity, inclusion, and climate.
Going forward, communication from the University should include references to the authentic history of people of color at UW-Madison, and the
University should seek input for such communication from alumni of color to accomplish this. Without this intention, student turnover creates a
high risk of gaps in institutional memory. The University should create a structure to pass generational knowledge from class to class and
administrators and alumni must share the burden to assure handoff or preservation the information. Such information can also be preserved
and consistently shared, as well as improved communication from University to various constituents, through regular, recurring forums or
listening sessions. The annual Diversity Forum and Homecoming weekend pose excellent opportunities for this type of exchange. Further,
there should be an annual diversity and inclusion publication that includes a “state of diversity and inclusion” address and is directed to a
variety of constituents including the greater Madison and Wisconsin community, alumni, students, faculty, and staff.
Continuity of information and preservation of important historical knowledge could be better facilitated by dedicating staff and financial
resources to such an effort as a part of campus diversity, inclusion, and climate initiatives. These financial resources should be provided in a
line item that is renewable until the need no longer exists.
2. Intentionally include diversity and inclusion throughout the student experience, including during new student orientation and curriculum
Alumni acknowledge that new initiatives are in progress through the Forward Together Diversity Framework, the R.E.E.L. Implementation Plan,
and the University’s most recent set of initiatives for the 2016-17 academic year, including the Our Wisconsin program. The following examples
are ways that the Collective’s recommendations may supplement current University initiatives: 1. Expand enrollment capacity to the
Intercultural dialogue and SEED courses and increase Our Wisconsin program participation; 2. Incorporate an ethnic student component to
every major; 3. Annually monitor, assess, and summarize outcomes of individual school and college work to increase diversity and inclusion
in their planning; 4. Continually assess and improve upon new student orientation opportunities to learn about diversity and inclusion.
It should also be noted that faculty and other instructors are perceived to have the most opportunity to bring diversity and inclusion into their
classrooms through incorporating syllabus statements or including assignments that require students to challenge their own biases. This can
also take the form of exploring the works of a diverse array of scholarship, or selecting works from authors from a diverse set of backgrounds
through course readings. To support these efforts, The University should provide increased funding for undergraduate and graduate students
and faculty to promote diversity and inclusion initiatives, trainings, course development workshops, syllabus review, and applied research on
diversity and inclusion initiatives related to coursework.
3. Require diversity and inclusion components throughout employee hiring, onboarding, and evaluation processes.
Before serving on a hiring committee, all individuals should receive training in best practices for hiring for diversity and inclusion, including
anti-discrimination law. This training should include information about appropriate questions and approaches to assessing professional
experience and capacity for working with diverse colleagues, students, and stakeholders. Each hiring committee should designate a process
monitor, an individual responsible for monitoring the hiring process, to check for implicit bias and unlawful discrimination. This practice will
also provide the added benefit risk management to the University and prevent unlawful discrimination in the hiring process.
Diversity and inclusion should become a tenet of evaluations on which faculty and deans are assessed for tenure and 5 year reviews.
Evidence of diversity of inclusion work can be programs, initiatives, courses, advocacy, scholarship, campus service, and genuine
mentorship of student of color, among other factors. Clear rubrics and scoring systems should be created for every position and cleared
through the process monitor, hiring committee chair, or Office of Human Resources. If it is not already a practice, employees (and perhaps
students) who leave the University should participate in exit interviews or complete exit questionnaires to track and assess motivating factors
for exiting or transferring from the University.
4. Update the Conduct Code to enable punishment perpetrators of hate/bias, especially when student’s intent is not malicious yet the impact
creates a racially hostile environment. Students should sign the Conduct Code.
The Collective acknowledges that this recommendation may require legislative action pertaining to Chapter UWS 17. As an interim measure,
the Chancellor may approve procedural changes to be used in ways consistent with Chapter 17, as was done in the past for procedures to
address incidents of sexual misconduct. Changes should specify that victims of hate and bias incidents to know the outcome of investigations
in ways consistent with privacy laws. Changes should also specify consequences for those who incite violence based on racially hostile
Consider similar sentiment from LeHigh University in a FAQ regarding protected class harassment:
15. If I don't mean to harass anyone, is it still harassment?
Yes, it is still harassment if it meets one of the definitions of harassment and is based on a protected characteristic. In determining whether
your conduct is or is not harassment, we look to the impact on the person experiencing the harassment, not on the intent of the individual
engaging in the conduct. In other words, your intention is irrelevant - what matters is the impact felt by the individual who is experiencing your
Admittedly, such policies run the risk of catering to individuals who may be unreasonably sensitive to racial harassment or victimization of
hate/bias at the expense of others who are genuinely good intentioned. The conduct code, however, should not prevent an ignorant student
from learning from the harm of their own implicit bias or expressed hatred. Such a change would create opportunities to increase cultural
intelligence and find appropriate ways to express their opinions, even if it is unpopular. Restorative justice tactics may be a useful option to
explore in some circumstances.
With regard to requiring students to sign the Code of Conduct, the signing should occur annually or one time during new student orientation. If
the University imposes an annual signature requirement, students should be required to review the Conduct Code and sign that they
acknowledge conduct expectations. Any changes or updates could be included in the prompt for signature/acknowledgement. To encourage
communication, any other initiative or program that require conduct commitments, e.g. club related travel, conference, housing, etc. should
invoke or incorporate by reference the student conduct code. This will remind students of the expectations of conduct and consequences for
failing to meet them.
5. Create a robust response and support protocol to hate/bias incidents that is at least as sophisticated and interdepartmental as the campus
sexual assault response protocol; ensure campus structures support this work.
Implementing this recommendation requires much attention to multiple improvements and changes in communications protocols, organization
structure, policy, and practice. First, the Collective recommends that the University provide more clarity and transparency for responses to
hate and bias on campus. This will require communications staff that have the skills and abilities to identify, discern, comprehend, and
articulate incidents that create and perpetuate hate/bias, and racially hostile environments. Fall 2016 communications from the University
indicate that the staff producing response content does not yet possess optimal capacity.
Second, training to build capacity should happen immediately or new staff with that capacity should be hired to fill that void until training can
occur. Additionally, the public, including students, staff, faculty, and alumni want more information about the progress and outcomes of
incidents. Although student privacy must be weighed, deidentified data and knowledge should be shared in a way that ensures that the campus
community is aware of what is occurring. While this website provides good information, the Collective recommends the University provide
more data about the incidents, similar to UW-Lacrosse. The campus sexual assault response process should inform these changes.
Third, the Collective recommends that the Vice Provost for Diversity and Climate report directly on the Chancellor. The Collective
acknowledges that the VP for Diversity and Climate currently has some informal access to the Chancellor. This communication line should be
formalized in the organizational structure, however, to communicate that diversity and inclusion is among the highest priorities of the
University. Additionally, this formal line of communication will ensure it will survive any individual turnover or changes in leadership.
As preventative steps to hate/bias incidents as well as a way to ensure information-sharing and accountability, the following groups should
have delegated diversity and climate roles and responsibility and should be expected to report to each other and to the VP of Diversity and
Climate. Additionally, these groups should contribute to annual reporting and review on campus initiatives as indicated elsewhere in these
Chancellor’s office and DDEEA
Campus Climate and Diversity Committee
Community Advisory Group
Athletics and other on-campus units, as needed.
6. Address the psychological and emotional impact of hate and bias incidents and a racially hostile environment on students; 10 counseling
sessions is unlikely enough to do so.
This recommendation requires acknowledging that recurrent, individual acts of hate and bias have a far-reaching impact on climate and well-
being of individuals and the community. Attention to this impact should be addressed by offering support services from qualified individuals
with expertise, experience, and training working with minoritized populations of color and those who experience race-related stress. All
employed counselors without this skill set should receive training within the next two (2) years. Failing to do puts unreasonable strain on
counselors of color and those who are currently trained. Additional support can also come from student or alumni mentors who can make
themselves available for support or consultation via a phone tree or similar structure. A system should be designed for these alumni and
students to provide this support.
7. Create opportunities to collect better data on student learning outcomes and campus climate data as related to diversity and inclusion.
This recommendation requires creativity to provide diversity and inclusion student learning outcomes and data collection opportunities if they
do not already exist. Assessment measures for in class or service learning opportunities must be created and used to effectively measure
progress. Two examples of such innovation are provided here.
First, consider creating a “study domestic” program that mirrors the opportunity of study abroad, This opportunity enables a student to live
somewhere in the US for a semester or year. This experience can provide a student an opportunity to work on a human rights related service
learning project. We imagine that a student can live in Flint for a semester, take classes somewhere like the University of Michigan-Flint and
have a service learning project in which they work daily on resolving the Flint water crisis. That student can return to the University and report
back to the campus community about what was learned.
Second, consider a “Color of” research series. The Color of Drinking survey from the University Health Services provides a model for the type
of data that could illuminate racial, and identity based differences in experience at the University. For example, the color of admissions, the
color of study spaces, the color of student engagement, of sport, of transferring, of engineering, etc. This data can help reveal and unpack the
employee and student experience. Further, taking stock of this information will enable identification of the issues that perpetuate the racialized
experience at UW-Madison which is the needed first step to address it.
8. Rethink philanthropy to enable alumni investments of time, talent, and cultural capital, not just money.
Many Black alumni make a conscious, calculated choice to withhold their financial support from the University. This choice often occurs
because these alumni are strapped with student loan debt for many years after graduation. For other alumni, debt notwithstanding, the do not
give back because dissonance between their personal feelings of alumni pride conflict with their disappointment with the University’s
response to recurring incidents of hate/bias. This dissonance creates and reinforces a sense of bitterness. This same internal tension is
shared by many Black UW-Madison varsity athlete alumni.
Given these issues, the University should consider finding ways to enable alumni contribution to specific programs, or allow alumni to invest
their time or cultural capital through mentorship programs (in person or by phone) until the University restores good will with alumni base. For
example, if training is needed, there should be a way for alumni or community members to donate their time or cultural capital to create, design
or facilitate the training. Such a structure allows alumni to donate the hours annually and then state how they will fulfill that donation. The Dane
County Time Bank has created a model that may inform this structure: http://www.danecountytimebank.org/.
To find out more about this complex issue, a survey or other data collection method should occur. Black alumni can help gather this
9. Work with other Predominently White Institution Chancellors to uproot systemic racism.
In consultation and partnership with leadership of other predominantly white institutions, the Chancellor should work with other Big Ten
leadership to convene biannually, a Chancellor's Commission on Systemic Racism in Predominantly White Institutions. This commission
should work with other campuses on this issue to pool resources and explore/examine this issue and create evidence initiatives for this
issue. This has been done on a related issue: Slavery and the University. The Chancellor could follow this model to lead this important effort.
10. Provide a transparent network and methods for key stakeholders to obtain information about, as well as provide feedback and generate
ideas to continue to improve upon, diversity and inclusion initiatives on campus.
This recommendation can be implemented in three ways. First, each year on the weekend of UW-Madison’s Homecoming, the University can
host a forum for key stakeholders including the UW System Board of Regents, community members, campus representatives, students, and
(1) produce and review a map of units doing work on diversity, inclusion, and climate issues on campus and in campus-related
alumni/community committees -- this should include any community advisory groups and alumni groups in addition to internal units;
(2) review progress made on campus initiatives and these alumni-generated goals since the prior year, with appropriate representatives from
respective units and committees reporting;
(3) address challenges from the past year, gather input;
(4) update benchmarks and goals for continued progress on goal;
(5) obtain feedback from attendees about next steps.
Following the meeting, a report should be drafted with any relevant recommendations in accordance with recommendation #1 above. It should
be noted that UW-Madison’s 2017 Homecoming celebration has been announced for the dates of October 15 to 21, 2017.
Second, the University can create and use transparent processes for ongoing idea- and solution-generation, especially when there are urgent
issues that occur on campus. Consider using a product/service like switchboard to have the public participate in the feedback and idea
generation process for diversity and inclusion initiatives that we can all observe. The University could have staff monitor the board and use
the ideas that are most practical and pose the best return on investment.
Third, consider creating an external Board of Visitors related to diversity and inclusion; although this suggestion should be considered and a
plan should be developed in the context of the “map” of existing units and external advisory groups and their respective roles as referenced
elsewhere in these recommendations. Such a body should exist external to the University, and may be housed within or collaborate with the
Wisconsin Alumni Association. Additionally, it should serve as an external diversity and inclusion task force that communicates regularly with
the Chancellor to share ideas and give alumni/community feedback. The body should include representatives of a variety of backgrounds
(Native American, 1st generation students, Latinx, LGBTQ+, Black/African American, WI Residents, International, Low SES, Undocumented,
Students with Disabilities, etc).
Conclusion and Next Steps
The Collective cannot and does not purport to know the best way to implement the recommendations provided herein and will rely on
University leadership for collaboration on next steps. Moving forward, the Collective proposes quarterly conference calls with a Chancellor-
identified liaison to review and assist in implementing these recommendations and forming an implementation plan. The implementation plan,
general progress and future initiatives, as well as future goals, should be reviewed during the annual Homecoming Meeting and Forum
referenced in these recommendations.
However the recommendations are implemented, progress and solutions should include community, faculty, and alumni voices for diversity
and inclusion programming. These changes must be understood to be a shared responsibility. Training for faculty, staff, and students are
needed to enable them to participate in campus Diversity and Inclusion work. Alumni can be consulted to contribute to these efforts. In addition
to training, the alumni and community resources should be leveraged to promote accountability, provide support to students, and offer support
in the form of time, talent, money, mentorship, and cultural capital.
Many thanks to the Center for Academic Excellence staff and the graduate students from counseling psychology who helped facilitate the
forums. Also, many thanks to the alumni who volunteered their time to attend the meeting, forum, and to compile these recommendations.
Forward and On Wisconsin!