Diversity Framework History

A Quarter Century Journey

What Ideas do You Have?
Participant’s written comments and ideas for further creating community cover a large note pad during the sixth annual Plan 2008 campus diversity forum, held at the Memorial Union.
©UW-Madison University Communications, Photo by: Jeff Miller, Date: 09/05

In the 1940’s and 1950’s the G.I. Bill brought many middle-class Americans into universities, a phenomenon that resulted in the emergence of the “big” universities and “revolutionized” the student population. The academic elites had initially resisted the entry of G.I. Bill students into higher education institutions, convinced that it would result in the “watering” down of standards of academic excellence.

Many among the new rising middle class of American professionals and academics felt it important to provide access to higher education for other disadvantaged and underrepresented groups, i.e., the racial and ethnic minorities. By the mid-1960’s, the recruitment effort targeting African Americans was underway at UW-Madison and the presence on campus of these students—many of whom were civil rights organizers and leaders in their own right—continued to power the forces of change.

Social Change at University of Wisconsin-Madison

Positive Aspects of Change

  • Development of support programs
  • Increased Recruitment efforts
  • Financial Aid
  • Academic Learning Programs, particularly the Five Year Program (later renamed the Academic Enhancement Program or AAP);
  • Increased awareness of multiculturalism and movements for curriculum change, including creation of ethnic studies courses and departments
  • Student of color activism and self-advocacy resulting in vibrant student organizations like the Black Student Union, Union Puertorriqueña and others
  • Creation and filling of staff positions charged with aspects of recruitment, support and retention of diverse students
  • Development of alliances among fellow students, faculty and staff
  • Community awareness and support with increased media coverage of issues of under-representation among students and faculty, in particular.

Negative Aspects of Change

As in the late 1940s and 1950s, when academic elites resisted the entry of G.I. Bill students into universities, so too was there resistance to the admission of students of color often on the argument that they came in under “lower academic standards.” Racial tensions on campus resulted in a rise in the number of racially-charged incidents with outrageous behaviors by UW-Madison students particularly in 1986 and 1987.

Simultaneous with the rise in tensions and racist incidents was the rise to new levels of minority student activism and organizing. A Minority Coalition was formed in 1987 by assertive students in the BSU, PAWA and UP. With the growing clamor for action, university leaders moved for systematic efforts to address the issues of underrepresented groups. In June 1987, a Steering Committee was convened, comprising 13 students, and 10 faculty and staff members. In an unprecedented move, a BSU student Charles Holley was named Committee chair. The Committee’s tasks were to:

  • Identify institutional barriers to recruitment and retention of minority undergraduates and graduate students
  • Explore the creation of a multicultural center, a student-staff-faculty committee on racism and sexism
  • Review academic offerings of cultural pluralism (i.e., an Ethnic Studies requirement; a mandatory orientation session for entering minority students; and recommend mechanisms for the involvement of the Madison community in making the university a comfortable place for people of color.

In November 1987, the Steering Committee presented its full report with recommendations. What is known widely as the Holley Report thus served as the foundational document of the first-ever campus diversity plan.

In 1988 the Madison Plan stated:

“…UW-Madison enjoys a proud history of educating many struggling first-generation Wisconsin college students who went on to lead this state and nation. The keys to the university’s success have been its accessibility and educational excellence.”

Today both elements are in jeopardy. Although it is an educational bargain in many respects, UW-Madison remains out of reach to the students with the fewest resources. And the quality of the educational experience is seriously compromised by the limited ethnic and cultural diversity of the faculty, staff and students.”

Stated goals of the Madison Plan:

  • Leadership and visibility in working to achieve a more diverse UW-Madison
  • Double the number of women and minorities in the faculty
  • Double the number of under-represented students

Results and lessons learned

  • Substantial increases in the number of women faculty and faculty of color — When the Madison Plan was launched in 1988, only 6 percent were faculty of color, and only 16 percent were female. By October 1997, slightly more than 10 percent were faculty of color; 22 percent were women in a faculty body of 2,171.
  • As a top-down effort, the success of the Madison Plan with faculty hiring was due to clear involvement and leadership of the chancellor and senior administrators.
  • But the challenges in student recruitment—particularly of African Americans and American Indians—continued daunting: small pools of prospective students and strong competition from other large (and selective) colleges and universities kept UW-Madison’s numbers low.


YearDiversity Plan Description
1987The Holley Report
1988The Madison Plan
1991Annual reviews of outcomes are conducted
1994The Madison Commitment: At the end of the 5-year period, UW-Madison governance bodies and the administration renewed the commitment to diversity, and move to align with the UW System ten-year Design for Diversity
1997In 1997, UW System began to lay the groundwork for the next 10-year diversity plan and continue the work started in its 1988 Design for Diversity. Public hearings were held across the state, The Board of Regents approved the umbrella Plan 2008 with 7 goals, and the Regents mandated each UW campus to draft its own campus diversity plan.
2008Plan 2008 UW SystemThe Seven Goals of Plan 2008 were:
1. Increase the number of Wisconsin high school graduates of color who apply, are accepted, and enroll at UW System institutions.
2. Encourage partnerships that build the educational pipeline by reaching children and their parents at an earlier age.
3. Close the gap in educational achievement, by bringing retention and graduation rates for students of color in line with those of the student body as a whole.
4. Increase the amount of financial aid available to needy students and reduce their reliance on loans.
5. Increase the number of faculty, academic staff, classified staff and administrators of color, so that they are represented in the UW System workforce in proportion to their current availability in relevant job pools. In addition, work to increase their future availability as potential employees.
6. Foster institutional environments and course development that enhance learning and a respect for racial and ethnic diversity.
7. Improve accountability of the UW System and its institutions.

Plan 2008 was widely vetted. UW-Madison campus listening sessions and town halls were scheduled, to generate input and responses from constituencies across the university. A large university-wide Steering Committee was convened by the Provost and the Associate Vice Chancellor/Point Person for Diversity; two co-chairs were named, and four task force/working groups, each with co-chairs, were created:

1. Undergraduate Student Issues
2. Graduate and Professional Student Issues
3. Diversity in the Curriculum Issues; and
4. Human Resources: Faculty and Staff Issues.

Fifty-four members were in attendance at the first meeting. Plan 2008 was published by Steering Committee Co-Chairs Vice Chancellor Paul Barrows and University Committee Chair Professor Bernice Durand. Deans and Directors responded by presenting their own unit diversity plans. To document the results of our diversity efforts, the Office of the Vice Chancellor published the Diversity Update as the university’s “report card."
2008UW-Madison Plan 2008
2011Strategic Diversity Update
1998In 1998, UW-Madison began a major planning process, with an assessment and institutional scan to review the outcomes and lessons from the past 10-year diversity effort. Simultaneously at UW System, efforts were underway to assess and evaluate the outcomes of the System-wide Design for Diversity. Based on that assessment, UW System identified seven (7) goals to serve as the basis for campus-wide discussions and guidelines for each UW institution’s campus Plan 2008.

A Plan for Implementation

In October 2014 the Framework was presented to more than 300 students, faculty and staff  across campus.  Six committees were charged with developing priorities from the recommendations embodied by the initial Framework. The six committees, along with the Campus Diversity and Climate Committee (CDCC), explored specific projects and action steps within the topic areas outlined in the framework.

These 6 Working Committees included:
  1. Faculty/Staff Professional Development and Capacity-Building Experiences;
  2. Administration and Accountability
  3. Access and Recruitment
  4. Retention and Research
  5. Undergraduate Curriculum
  6. STEM Initiatives
Each project or action step included:
  • A clear implementation timeline, including suggestions for transition
    from pilot to full implementation and/or lifespan of the particular
  • Developing measurable outcomes and metrics for success
  • Exploring opportunities to share data to promote best practices that foster a more
    inclusive campus climate
  • Providing estimates of efforts and costs

Diversity Defined

Previous diversity plans have focused on race, ethnicity and gender, which remain critical problems for UW-Madison. We recognize, however, that to achieve Inclusive Excellence a strategic framework should be expanded to include additional dimensions of diversity. This framework defines diversity as: race and ethnicity; sex; gender, and gender identity or expression; marital status; age; sexual orientation; country of origin; language; disability; socio-economic status; and affiliations that are based on cultural, political, religious, or other identities.