We at the Morgridge Center for Public Service are committed to justice, equity, and anti-racism. Since the founding of this country on stolen Indigenous land, racism has been embedded within our laws, policies, and practices within the United States as well as within our broader culture and personal interactions. This remains apparent today through the racial disparities in the many systems in which we interact on a daily basis: education, housing, health care, and criminal justice, among others. Systemic racism is especially prevalent here in Wisconsin, where our state faces some of the largest racial disparities in the country. Public health officials have recently declared racism a public health crisis to shed light on the urgent need for systemic change. The Morgridge Center stands against racism, oppression, white supremacy and injustice in all its forms. We are diligently working to ensure that our actions align with our assertions.
Connection to Mission
A critical part of this work is confronting the forms of oppression that have historically existed within public service and higher education. We recognize that no part of our culture has been immune to racism – in fact, saviorism has been a particularly damaging form. As we carry out the mission of the Morgridge Center — to prepare students for lifelong civic engagement, to connect campus and community to build a thriving democratic society and to use civic engagement as a means to achieve equity and justice — we must work to dismantle racist structures and beliefs within public service and higher education. This includes acknowledging and taking responsibility for our own shortcomings.
We are currently working to create a broader racial justice plan and will dive into a deeper strategic planning process, focused on justice and equity, in 2022. Recognizing that this work is never finished and that our efforts will evolve as new priorities emerge, we are currently focused on:
- Increasing accessibility to Morgridge Center programs and services
- Centering community priorities
- Decentering whiteness in our policies and practices
- Adjusting our work to be anti-oppressive and justice-oriented
- Promoting institutional change towards equity and justice
Morgridge Center staff are working to improve in several ways. We share these strategies to model our actions to our peers and to invite accountability from our community partners as we commit to this work together. Some current fundamental actions (some completed, some ongoing) include:
Centering Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) students within education, research and outreach
- Faculty Director Dr. Earlise Ward and Graduate Project Assistant CC Vang are researching why UW–Madison students may or may not engage with Morgridge Center programming and will use their findings to enhance the effectiveness of our work
Committing intentional staff time dedicated to equity and anti-racism
- We restructured professional staff meeting time to include more frequent and extended opportunities to develop our equity and advocacy skills, while also dedicating time to continued reflection on the ways in which our office is contributing to a more inclusive university
- We are working with the Community Campus Connector racial justice working group on several anti-racism projects
- We are consulting with equity experts on additional ways to build our staff’s capacity in these areas
Highlighting BIPOC Excellence
- We are regularly highlighting through our social media and communication channels the outstanding work of organizations led by and working for BIPOC communities
- We are supporting regular programming that focuses on equity and anti-racism
Valuing of anti-racism and equity-based work
- We are prioritizing funding community-based research projects and courses that aim to address systemic inequities and promote equity, diversity and inclusion
- We created the Student Activism Award in 2021 to honor the invaluable, historic work of student activists who, push us as an institution to improve and grow
- We are compiling an extensive resource library that includes a section dedicated to equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism resources
Our work must continue to evolve to be responsive to the priorities in the communities we partner with. We are committed to being accountable for our actions and to growing and sustaining collaborative relationships that will foster a positive transformation.