Defining Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

At the University of Michigan, our dedication to academic excellence for the public good is inseparable from our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

We know that talent is distributed across all communities, but opportunity is not. Cultivating a diverse campus community – including removing barriers to higher education access – enables the types of culturally and intellectually rich learning and working environments necessary for a world-class education, catalyzing new knowledge production and innovations, and developing solutions that positively impact society. In order to best nurture and benefit from a diverse campus community, we must create and sustain the conditions of equity and inclusion that allow all campus members to participate and thrive.

Diversity: We commit to increasing diversity, which is expressed in myriad forms, including race and ethnicity, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, language, culture, national origin, religious commitments, age, (dis)ability status and political perspective.

Equity: We commit to working actively to challenge and respond to bias, harassment, and discrimination. We are committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons and do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, religion, height, weight, or veteran status.

Inclusion: We commit to pursuing deliberate efforts to ensure that our campus is a place where differences are welcomed, different perspectives are respectfully heard and where every individual feels a sense of belonging and inclusion. We know that by building a critical mass of diverse groups on campus and creating a vibrant climate of inclusiveness, we can more effectively leverage the resources of diversity to advance our collective capabilities.

At U-M, consistent with our value for diverse views, perspectives and expressions, we honor, respect, and support the different ways that our different campus community members, offices, units, and programs have amplified, named and called out these important areas and concepts. In all cases, all of these concepts should be linked, connected to, and integral to how we think about and work on advancing a more diverse, inclusive, equitable, and just world.

The U-M DEI strategic plan framework and definitions of diversity, equity, and inclusion are inclusive of and/or complementary to a number of important concepts, values, and goals:


Full accessibility for persons with disabilities is a principle and value that is taken up within our definitions of diversity, equity, and inclusion in distinct, interconnected and equally important ways. The U-M campus community is enriched by the presence of people with diverse life experiences, lenses and perspectives. Our goals of increasing diversity must include the recruitment and retention of people with disabilities as necessary for achieving culturally and intellectually rich learning and working environments. Accessibility goes hand in hand with our equity goals, including our commitment to supporting accommodations and eliminating barriers for those with disabilities, to enable equitable participation in academic, co-curricular, and work environments and equitable access to resources necessary for individuals’ thriving and success. We cannot truly meet our goals for inclusion if individuals with disabilities are not able to feel a sense of belonging, empowerment, and voice in our campus community. Inclusion must also mean going beyond compliance and accommodations toward actions, structures and norms that focus on disability culture – for instance, challenging deficiency or tragedy narratives about disabled persons in favor of strengths-based approaches that recognize personal and cultural strengths and assets; and challenging norms and dismantling structures that reinforce ableism.


This institutional change approach to advancing DEI is compatible and aligned with the values and goals of anti-racism. While there are a variety of ways to define anti-racism, generally it is an active process and commitment to analyzing self, systems, ideologies, practices, and policies that produce and reinforce inequalities in access, opportunity, legitimacy, safety, and life outcomes based on race. Anti-racism explicitly challenges systems and norms grounded in white supremacy and anti-Blackness. Anti-racism also seeks to transform institutions toward ways of working and interacting that value and honor the full humanity of all people. U-M’s strategic plan definitions of DEI encourage attention to many areas of diversity – including race and racism – and the DEI efforts of many across our campus are specifically focused on anti-racism.


At U-M, we aspire for all campus members to feel a sense of belonging and empowerment to participate fully in our campus community. Inclusion is key to realizing this aspiration. Grounded in our DEI strategic plan and its institutional change model, U-M’s inclusion definition and efforts focus on addressing environmental features (systems, structures, and norms) that promote or inhibit the experience of inclusion – the extent that different communities and perspectives are valued, represented, and have a voice in core mission work, from our curricular and co-curricular spaces, to research and scholarship, to workplace experiences, to programs, to infrastructure and development, to community engagement, among others. From this perspective, campus members feeling a sense of belonging is a direct result of the environmental conditions of inclusion.


Justice involves bringing to the center those communities that are most marginalized and vulnerable and prioritizing those communities in change planning and efforts. A key premise is that doing so achieves equity and uplifts all. Justice involves taking stock of historical harms done to different communities and building this knowledge into planning and action. Justice is about disrupting, sharing and redistributing power. Working from our DEI institutional change model, U-M’s DEI efforts seek to broaden access such that members of all communities have equitable opportunities to enter, participate and thrive. As such, these efforts must account for differences in the experiences and opportunities of different communities. From the perspective of our framework, in order to leverage the benefits of diversity – we must create the conditions of equity and true inclusion. By definition, this means that things must change (with “things” meaning who has power, influence, and voice in priorities and decision-making).