Xenophobia: Addressing the pandemic nature of a social virus
by Dominic J. Ledesma
The Division of Extension joins the UW-Madison campus leadership, Asian American Studies Program, the Chican@ and Latin@ Studies Program Faculty, and other members of the UW community in publicly denouncing a wave of xenophobic and racist nativist acts prompted by the current COVID-19 pandemic. In a statement released on March 26, Chancellor Blank referenced an increase in biased incidents that have targeted “Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi-American students and employees, particularly those from or perceived to be from China and East Asia.” Campus leadership has formally addressed at least two specific incidents, one involving bias against residents living in University Apartments and the other related to graffiti that appeared on campus in late March.
The Asian American Studies Program posted two pictures to their Facebook page of graffiti that was written the evening of March 24. Two different messages appeared in two separate, but close locations on campus that receive a high volume of pedestrian traffic. Similarities between the messages suggest that they were written by the same person(s). One message was chalked on the corner of State and Lake, less than a block away from the Extension building at 432 N. Lake. Both messages included content that perpetuate xenophobic and racist nativist sentiments.
In solidarity with the statements released by other campus units, the Office of Access, Inclusion, and Compliance formally expresses our support for all members of the UW community, whether housed on campus or in one of our Extension offices statewide. To persons affected by what we—and many others—consider to be inexcusable acts of symbolic violence, we would like to reiterate the supports and resources that are available for students, staff, and faculty.
Xenophobia and racist nativism are not new concepts; they are not new to campus, the state of Wisconsin, or U.S. society in general. They represent a particular strain of virus that is social in nature. Xenophobia, in general terms, is described as the “fear and angst toward outsiders” while racist nativism is often characterized by dictating the terms of “who belongs here and who doesn’t belong here.” Xenophobic and racist nativist rhetoric, including more overt examples like the graffiti on campus, are rooted in ignorance and a baseless disdain toward “others.” Both are leveraged as tools to divide people and communities. The aim? To propagate attitudes that diminish and marginalize the existence of persons we perceive to be different from ourselves.
Expressions of xenophobia or racist nativism toward any group, whether during a pandemic or not, runs contrary to our values as a UW community and undermines our collective efforts to form a more welcoming and inclusive environment.
While campus has made this point abundantly clear, perhaps Chancellor Blank put it best by stating “COVID-19 has affected all of us personally, academically and professionally, as well as physically, mentally, and socially. Even so, it’s important to remember: No one person, country, or ethnicity created this pandemic—disease does not discriminate.” Thus, as we contemplate our collective responsibility to each other during these challenging times, we must also consider ways to “flatten the curve” on the pandemic effects of xenophobia, racist nativism, and other menacing social viruses.
Accessibility in the time of COVID-19
by Heather Stelljes, Extension Access Consultant
As the impact of COVID-19 continues to widen, and the need for alternative programming continues to stretch out before us, please keep accessibility in the forefront of your mind when planning and disseminating program materials. Be it virtual, video, or print materials, consider how your programming may be used or accessed by folks with a variety of needs or circumstances. The reality is that individuals with disabilities are often disproportionately impacted by emergencies. We also know that a mobile device may be the only access to the internet, and we are aware of the realities of limited bandwidth. With so many different needs and different circumstances to consider, there is no time like the present to ensure that what is being put out there works for as many users as possible. The following tips will ensure accessibility for online programming or documents.
- Provide clear structure of content. Make any products simple and intuitive. Directions should be clear and organized. Use plain language. Distance often requires more structure than face to face programming, as there less interaction. Additionally, knowing the expected outcomes helps increase focus and learning. Strong and simple organization allow users to succeed accessing the material the first time, whenever and wherever that may be.
- Caption videos. When the Division of Extension creates any public facing media, it needs to have captioning and alternate text for images to be compliant with a few different federal laws. Only time-synced and verbatim captions provide truly equitable access. As such, professional, quality captions are required and can be acquired through contracted vendors. There are tools for captioning videos yourself, but that is only suggested only for short videos. Two external tools you may consider for independently captioning short videos are the following: CADET Tool and Section 508 Accessibility Training Videos
- Describe images. Images, tables, infographics, and other visuals can be excellent tools for conveying knowledge in videos, PowerPoints, and documents. They can increase focus and distill complicated information, so while their use is encouraged, images must be described when they appear on screen. This is true for presentations (live or recorded) or when sharing any document. This includes not only giving a physical description of the image but covering the content and function of the image.
- Create accessible documents, whether Word, Google, or PDF. Some key concepts to apply in creating accessible documents include the following:
- Use headings
- Use strong color contrasts and avoid pattern backgrounds
- Text should be at least 12 point and font should be clear and easy to read, with a good amount of white space
- Use lists that are bulleted or numbered
- Add alternate text to images that describe the image and its purpose
- If tables are necessary, make sure column and row headings are included and informative
The Center for Digital Accessibility and User Experience is a great resource for learning more about and applying accessibility practices, and offers specific guides for a variety of accessible content. You can find specific how-to instructions for common document formats for the following products:
5. Establish participation rules for a virtual meeting. Apply some of the same practices done internally by passing on the following tips to participants prior to any virtual meeting:
- Circulate content prior to meeting
- Mute when joining the meeting
- Use of chat function for question or notifying of comments
- Allow for more and longer pauses between speakers
- Identify self when speaking if not called on
Use Zoom's polling feature to collect demographic information
Transforming your programs from in-person to virtual presents many challenges but collecting the demographic information on your participants doesn’t have to be one of them. Zoom’s polling feature to the rescue!
Once you have scheduled your Zoom event, create a poll that will be ready when you conduct your program. Use the demographics form template as a guide. Be sure to check the “Anonymous” check box. When you conduct your program, assure your participants that their responses are anonymous and that they can choose not to respond.
Example of poll for collecting demographic information
To generate a poll report after your event, log into your Zoom account and navigate to Reports. On the Usage Reports page, follow the prompts to select a poll report for your specific event. Once the report has been generated it will automatically download and can be opened in Excel, Notepad, or any other application compatible with the .CSV format. Remember to download your results soon after your event because Meeting reports are automatically deleted 30 days after the scheduled date (Webinars after a year).