Monday, March 26, 2007

Diversity letter to UW Law

The Toward Community Board last week directed their chair (yours truly) to send a letter to the UW regarding the situation that occurred as a result of comments by one Professor Kaplan (or at least the way in which his comments were perceived) in a class at UW. While very likely a misunderstanding, whether innocent or insensitive, Hmong students at the UW Law School now feel they are living in a more hostile climate and need to air their differences with the prof. Thye have been unable to get a meeting and the statewide Hmong community is looking for broader support, this the involvement by Toward Community.

March 26, 2007

Dean Kenneth Davis, Jr.
University of Wisconsin Law School
975 Bascom Mall
Madison WI 53706

Dear Dean Davis:

I am writing you on behalf of Toward Community: Unity in Diversity, a grass-roots membership organization in the Fox Cities for the past fourteen years. Our group has consistently spoken out on diversity and justice issues. We are concerned about events in your school that have created some divisive issues respecting Prof. Kaplan and Hmong students.

We encourage you to take a leadership role in facilitating a settlement of these issues. This unfortunate situation can be addressed by intentionally creating opportunities for meaningful dialog. A controlled setting with a mediated discussion can assure that feelings and issues will be explored in ways that seek to reduce, rather than promote, conflict. This situation requires opportunities for healing and closure that such discussion could provide.

We believe there is no inherent conflict between academic freedom and diversity. Indeed, mutual respect and acceptance of diversity are essential for intellectual freedom to flourish. People in Wisconsin look to the UW Law School as an exemplar of justice in our state, and your issues and actions can create statewide ripples.

On our behalf, we hope that you will "encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found." You have our best wishes and support in seeking an equitable solution that will address the needs of all parties.

Sincerely,

Terry Dawson
Chair, Toward Community: Unity in Diversity
Just as universities need to be sensitive to diversity issues consistent with academic freedom, public libraries need to support diversity in their communities. This isn't a matter of political correctness, it's a matter of sensitivity and mutual support.

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