University of Wisconsin–Madison
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Announcing a new community: UW–‍Madison IT Talks Technical

I’m pleased to announce a new campus-wide IT Community and project: UW–‍Madison IT Talks Technical. IT Talks Technical brings together IT professionals interested in developing processes that will help all of us better express information technology and technical terms in a manner that is inclusive and respectful of the diversity of our university and our profession.

Why this matters

We no longer live in an environment where we can label white as good, black as bad, red as attackers, or yellow as not inclusive third parties. As technologists, we also need to deal with old school thinking with such terms as “master” and “slave” when talking about database and server architecture. Generational backup strategies we used to call “grandfather, father and son” are no longer appropriate.

The compelling need for this project is to address the historical use of potentially offensive and discriminatory words, and to present a moral case and business case for more inclusive terminology technologists should use. It’s also just plain time to label things according to what they do and remove the jargon. The goal is to motivate and sustain participation in the development process that brings continuous awareness and motivates change in the way technologists communicate with each other and our constituents.

The mission of UW–‍Madison IT Talks Technical is to provide campus-wide representation to:

  • Commit: Where we used offensive terms, and jargon or shorthand for technical terms, we must now commit to using more accurate and less offensive terms.  
  • Identify: Identify the use of offensive terms, jargon or shorthand and work to change the usage. 
  • Advocate: Promote and advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion as inextricably linked to the pursuit of excellence.  
  • Involve: Track sources where other organizations have coined terms or definitions to identify opportunities to change language used by contractors, third-party vendors or research partners.

Who’s involved

The easy answer to this question is… all of us! Every student, faculty member and university employee is involved in some manner, to some degree, in the crucial task of evolving our language to better reflect our commitment to inclusion, equity and diversity. With that in mind, here are some of the roles and who’s currently filling them in our project team charter:

Role Tasks Person
Project Leaders Plan and organize work of the team. Ensure team deliverables are met on time and within scope.
  • Bob Turner, Chief Information Security Officer, Office of Cybersecurity
  • Jason Erdmann, Sr IT Consultant, MERIT, School of Education
Communications Lead Serve as spokesperson. Lead creation and production of communication assets.
Researchers Raise awareness of language and jargon used in IT. Research available references to identify unwanted terms and language. 
Vendor Outreach Coordinator Establish a dialog with vendors. Interested in filling this role?
Diversity Cartographer  Plan and outline future goals and activities.
  • Sara Tate-Pederson, IT Policy Writer & Analyst, Office of Cybersecurity
Affinity Group Liaison(s)  Establish a dialog with campus audiences in research, administration, instruction, and student life.
Office of Legal Affairs/Office of Compliance Representative    
Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement Representative    
  • Jeff Savoy, Policy, Security & Planning Assistant Director, Office of Cybersecurity
  • Sue Weier, Sr Information Processing Consultant, L&S
  • Mickey Nash, Cybersecurity Education & Awareness Analyst, Office of Cybersecurity
  • Angela Stephens, Program Assistant, Office of Cybersecurity

See yourself in one of these roles? Make a difference! Share your thoughts and/or join us.

What’s next

The work of the UW–‍Madison IT Talks Technical project team will focus on:

  • Identifying information technology, security or other technical terms which exclude by referring to gender, race, color, religion, or national origin, or through manipulation of power differentials, i.e. naming conventions, technical language, documentation, posters, marketing, official and unofficial communications. 
  • Establishing IT vendor relationships to gain perspective and cooperation to conform to more inclusive and appropriate use of terms and definitions.  
  • Working with campus and UW System partners to raise awareness and advocate for change. 

How you can help

We want to hear from you, and we covet your participation. Let us know via this simple Qualtrics survey what you think, what you’d be interested in doing to move the project forward, and what suggestions you might have for us.

Share your feedback with us

Join us for a panel discussion at the IT Professionals Conference