Monday, November 21, 2011

Class Diversity on Campus

What comes to mind when the word diversity comes up? Words that are typically mentioned include race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion. Many times class is forgotten in the diversity discussion. Why is this? The Working Class Student Union continues to ask the campus community this question.

Class & Diversity

Anyone can see from past events - one as recently as September when Roger Clegg, president and general counsel for the Center for Equal Opportunity, visited the campus and was greeted by protestors - that the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus has a long background in standing up for diversity.* And, while the UW-Madison administrators are constantly working on improving the diversity climate on campus, class is still rarely, if at all, mentioned in the diversity dialogue. Even recently when The Daily Cardinal ran an article titled “Diversity Committee asks Student Groups for Input,” they explained that “the committee sent out a questionnaire to ethnically, religiously and sexually diverse groups on campus to better understand how ASM could improve its diversity efforts” (Duffin, p. 3). Unfortunately there was no mention of class in this article, although ASM did send a questionnaire to WCSU.

This is startling when 65 percent of the U.S. population is classified as working class or below (even if they do not associate themselves specifically with these classes) (U.S. Census Bureau. 2010). That is two thirds of the U.S.! Unfortunately, we do not have statistics currently for how many UW-Madison students are considered working class,* but the census information should still cause one to wonder why class is not a bigger topic of discussion on this campus. Students’ voices from certain classes are not being heard at this university and on top of that, many students and faculty alike are not aware of the issues and culture of the working class. Many well-educated people have never witnessed or experienced a working class culture and do not have the necessary means to understand it. College should be the perfect opportunity to learn about class consciousness, diversity and separations. It should be included in all of the rest of our liberal arts education, right? So why isn’t it and why isn’t it talked about more? There are courses about many different cultures and issues, but few that discuss class, let alone center around class, classism and the many issues that surround both. This needs to change and so does the vocabulary that surrounds class issues.*

WCSU is working to break down these barriers, but it is hard when class is seldom mentioned in campus lingo or policies. The Provost’s Diversity statement states, “We live in a diverse society that is … interconnected with the … economic interests of people in other parts of the world. … At UW-Madison we have made significant progress in our efforts to create a campus that reflects the diversity of our society and the world beyond it” (DeLuca, Provost’s Diversity Statement). While this is a step in the right direction of facing the issues of class, class is not specifically mentioned and the phrasing of these sentences makes it sound as though economics in other parts of the world are more important to learn about than what is happening in our own country. In defense of the statement though, it is overall very vague and neither highlights specific groups nor ignores them, and WCSU acknowledges it is impossible to include every topic of diversity in one statement. UW-Madison has also “increased need-based funding,” (DeLuca) which is fundamental for students from working class backgrounds.

What may add to the confusion is that the Office for Equity and Diversity has different sets of “guidelines” for students (current and applicants), employees (current and applicants) and visitors/guests “wishing to take part in university activities” ( The website states that, “The university is committed to providing equal opportunity and equal access” ( It goes on to state different “bases for covering” the aforementioned groups ( Each group has a different set of “bases” to cover them, but what does that mean? Does it mean that UW-Madison respects its students’ diversity more than its employees’ or guests’? Does it mean that guests should be treated differently than students or employees? Clarification would be helpful.

WCSU does applaud the work that the Division of Diversity and Campus Climate; the UW-Madison Provost, Paul M. DeLuca, Jr.; the Vice Provost for Diversity & Climate, Damon A Williams; and the Office for Equity and Diversity have accomplished. We simply hope that the issue of class will be included as the diversity conversation on this campus continues.

For further reading about diversity and a startling opinion from a UW-Madison professor emeritus, follow this link:

*Read this Channel3000 report about the protests regarding Clegg’s visit:
* Also visit the student Facebook event that was created to spread awareness:!/event.php?eid=194213517316120
* The use of working class in this article includes working class and all others classified
below working class as well.
* Stay tuned for a blog concerning different phrases and statements we have heard on
campus that can be considered hurtful, discriminatory, prejudiced and ignorant.

Works Cited
Duffin, A. (2011, October 26). Diversity Committee asks student groups for input.
The Daily Cardinal, p. 3.
DeLuca, Paul. M., Jr. (Date unknown). Provost’s Diversity Statement.
(n.d) Office for Equity and Diversity.

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