President Mark Schlissel and Robert Sellers, vice provost and chief diversity officer, praised dozens of faculty and staff members at a breakfast celebrating the diversity, equity and inclusion implementation leads for their early progress.
The appreciation breakfast included presentations and Q&A sessions from Schlissel and Sellers as well as a keynote address from Vic Strecher, professor of health behavior and health education. Strecher spoke on the intersectionality of life purpose and behaviors and how that ties into the DEI work on campus.
“This is something we’re all engaged in together and it addresses perhaps the most profound and impactful challenge not just at universities across the country, but really in modern society,” Schlissel said.
“This isn’t a short-term commitment. This is a process that we’ll have to feed, water and care for before handing off to our successors if we really want to be ultimately successful.”
Schlissel added that he was excited and energized about the progress made since the plan’s October 2016 launch.
Specifically, he noted the high participation rate of the sampling and all-staff DEI climate surveys, the communitywide interactions with the Stumbling Blocks exhibit and the successful engagement from all corners of the campus as highlights.
He said, however, that the year has not been without its challenges, which further emphasized the importance of the work of the group.
Sellers echoed Schlissel’s comments. He said there are several things to be proud of, most notably the fact that this plan was even developed and launched given how hard these kinds of efforts can be at such a decentralized institution as U-M.
“Getting through the DEI planning process itself was not easy. The fact that we have been able to pull this off, that we have a process in place, is incredible. The process, at its foundation, is meant to be proactive. It’s not based simply on reactions to momentary distress, but on a vision of all that we could achieve as an institution,” Sellers said.
“While we have achieved a great deal, the days ahead are likely to be fraught with greater opposition or resistance. That is simply because what we’re talking about is fundamentally institutional change, and institutional change of an enduring variety is hard and it’s always contested and it takes time.”
Leads for all 49 units will begin their year-one reporting this spring. The reports will give the university community a detailed snapshot of what each unit accomplished since the October launch. Reports will include information about engagement sessions, the goal progress and updates heading into year two.
Schlissel reiterated that he is invigorated by progress thus far, but is even more energized knowing the community still has a long road ahead.
“This wasn’t a one-year plan where we had everybody’s attention and they’ve moved on. I really do think we’ve captured the ongoing attention of the broad community, and it’s due in large part because of the fact that our leads have kept these issues on the table and front-burner,” he said.
Sellers added: “I believe that what we’re doing is not only right, but it is the very best thing for the core mission of the university. We no longer have to make the case that diversity, equity and inclusion are core parts of what this institution is about. This is the way it is and it is being embraced all around.”