To Whom It May Concern:
The UW System Women’s and Gender Studies Consortium (WGSC) heartily supports the pending senate resolution entitled “Improving the Retention of Faculty, Staff, and Students of Color” at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. This resolution provides a concrete and strategic approach to enhancing the campus climate for people of color at the UWEC, and offers proven remedies for addressing racial inequity by approaching the issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion from a variety of angles. In particular, the WGSC supports the effort to recruit, hire, and work to actively retain faculty of color in the American Indian Studies, Critical Hmong Studies, Latin American Studies, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Cluster hires are an excellent way to address the deeply intersectional nature of institutionalized discrimination.
Since its inception in 1989, the WGSC has worked in collaboration with the administration on each campus across the UW System to enhance student learning and service to students, support multiculturalism and inclusion, lead efforts to develop and integrate intersectional feminist scholarship and strengthen connections between campuses and communities. In accordance with the 2020 FWD Vision, the WGSC is engaged in a series of initiatives which contribute to a transformed, more inclusive environment with vital learning communities, expanded opportunities for feminist research and activism that encourages interconnected and multicultural communities. Accordingly, our advisory board is actively following the events unfolding on the campus of UWEC, and we applaud the efforts of the Senate to address the issue of racial discrimination with a strong sense of urgency.
As a UW System initiative specifically created to address issues of gender discrimination from an intersectional perspective, the WGSC underscores the importance of this resolution to women of color. Research consistently points to the feelings of isolation students and faculty of color experience at predominantly white institutions of higher learning. Institutionalized policies that take into account the compounded effects of multiple identities (i.e. being a woman and a person of color) have a much greater chance of improving the experiences of people positioned at the intersections of multiple identity positions. Female students of color are significantly more likely to return to campus and graduate each semester if they see themselves reflected in the demographics of faculty on campus.1 Simultaneously, campus policies that actively recognize and seek to remedy the challenges women of color face from students, colleagues, and others in the community have the effect of bolstering the retention and experiences of female faculty of color—a demographic critical to the Chancellor’s Investment Framework.
The Senate resolution offered at UWEC could serve as a model for other campuses grappling with issues of racial inequity across the UW System. The resolution offers a common-sense system of accountability and action that supports the larger efforts of UWEC administrators, faculty, and students to create a welcoming, intellectually rich, and diverse campus community. In particular, the WGSC applauds the leadership of Dr. Rose-Marie Avin, chair of the program of WGSS and last year’s recipient of the MLK Social Justice Award, in collaborating with others to develop this resolution. The WGSC looks forward to supporting the efforts of UWEC in eliminating discrimination against people of all identities, and working earnestly and swiftly to address existing issues of inequity and discrimination on your campus.
Dr. Stephanie Rytilahti
Director, UW System Women’s and Gender Studies Consortium
1 Gutiérrez y Muhs, G., Niemann, Y., González, C., & Harris, A. (Eds). (2012). Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia. Boulder, CO: The University Press of Colorado; Turner, C. S. V. (2002). “Women of Color in Academe: Living with Multiple Marginality.” The Journal of Higher Education, 73(1), 74-93.