The University of Michigan has long prided itself on being an institution that is both proactive and responsive to the needs of its community members, especially when it comes to issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.
From the creation of the nation’s first LGBTQ+ center at an institution of higher learning in 1971, to the announcement of a new, centrally located Trotter Multicultural Center in 2016, U-M administrators have worked hand-in-hand with campus leaders and student activists to create a campus that is as rich and fulfilling outside of the classroom as it is inside.
U-M President Mark Schlissel reinvigorated the decades-long charge at the start of his tenure in 2014, as he immediately laid the foundation for the production of a comprehensive strategic plan for the university community to become more diverse, more equitable and more inclusive. The plan was introduced in October 2016.
Vice President for Student Life Royster Harper says the university’s five-year strategic plan for diversity, equity and inclusion was, in part, born from student efforts and partnerships with administrators from across campus.
“Student activism has been the lifeblood of so much of the change our campus has seen throughout the decades. In my time here we’ve developed a number of processes and programs that allow us to work with students so we can best understand what they need in order to gain the most from their college experience,” Harper says.
The plan was created not just to encourage individual and collective action, promote transparency and accountability at every level and to affirm the university community’s shared values, but it also was created so the university community could be proactive in its efforts and enhance its culture of resilience in the wake of adversity, while working hard to tackle troubling issues in a way that has a broad, lasting impact.
At least that’s the way Robert Sellers sees it. Sellers is the university’s chief diversity officer. He was appointed to the position in the fall after serving as a vice provost and as a psychology faculty member.
“Several incidents on campus this year — particularly the posting of racist fliers, the bias-motivated destruction of property in the Shapiro Undergraduate Library and the spoofed racist and anti-Semitic emails sent to student groups — have tested our resolve and challenged the ways in which the university has dealt with these difficult, sensitive issues,” Sellers says.
“One of the strengths of the DE&I planning process is that it is the university’s effort to be proactive to achieve an ideal state instead of just being reactive to incidents when they occur.”
While the university is constantly striving to ensure a safe, welcoming environment for everyone, several programs and initiatives have long been in place to combat behaviors that don’t align with university values. Additionally, several more programs and initiatives have been proposed through unit DE&I plans and are being put into place by those units.
DE&I unit leads and staff members across campus will continue to work with students to gather input for future iterations of the strategic plan. Members of the community will be continuously encouraged to weigh in with thoughts and ideas about best practices moving forward.
And while student activism spurred many of these long-standing and new initiatives, several others have come from collaboration with staff and faculty members and are reflected in unit DE&I plans.
Here are some existing and “coming soon” efforts the university has taken that coincide with the commitment to create a community that is more diverse, more equitable and more inclusive:
Support for students
- The Expect Respect program housed in the Dean of Students office. Expect Respect works to broadly share campus values of inclusivity and works to educate the campus community regarding expectations for civility and respect on campus.
- The Bias Response Team is a group of professional staff from within the Division of Student Life, Office for Institutional Equity, U-M Police and the Provost’s Office that focuses on the response and management of bias incidents involving U-M students. The Bias Response Team is committed to providing support and assistance for students who are targets of bias. The team connects people to university resources and incorporates the expertise of team members as incidents impacting students and the community occur.
- All first-year students participate in programs designed to educate and improve students’ ability to live and learn in a diverse environment. Student Life provides a variety of programs in the fall and winter terms of a student’s first year, many offered within residence halls, that are collectively known as the First-Year Experience.
- The university provides prompt outreach to students who have (or that could have) been affected by incidents and will increase the capacity and coordination of existing initiatives to provide resources for our student community when incidents of bias occur and when other challenges to an inclusive environment arise. These efforts will offer critical support for all students involved in crisis, bias-related incidents or situations related to a challenging campus climate. Additionally, student communications will focus on raising awareness about — and increasing utilization of — related support services and organizations, channels for reporting bias and other resources.
- LSA has proposed that members of the incoming class of 2021 receive training on digital citizenship. All members of the incoming class would be invited to enroll in a course on “22 Ways to Think about Digital Citizenship.” This course would address the need to help our students better navigate a digital presence and a digital community. This pilot course would be launched in the summer of 2017 for incoming U-M freshmen.
- Intercultural Development Assessment and Training Pilot Program for Undergraduate Students began in winter 2017. The university piloted an innovative student assessment and training program for student leaders, with the ultimate goal of administering the Intercultural Development Inventory, or another similar assessment tool, to an incoming student cohort group in fall 2017. These tools are designed to assess intercultural acumen, defined as the ability to shift cultural perspective and appropriately adapt behavior to cultural differences and commonalities. The pilot program is designed to grow each year, and by year five will include the entire freshman cohort.
- The Office of the Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion and the Chief Diversity Officer will create a campuswide initiative to increase best practice-based faculty recruitment and mentorships, maximizing the likelihood that diverse, well-qualified candidates for faculty positions will be identified and, if selected, will be recruited, retained, and promoted. These efforts will expand utilization of the STRIDE training among hiring managers and search committees in schools and colleges, and will establish guidelines and support for high quality faculty mentorship.
- An interdisciplinary task force within Michigan Medicine has been engaged to develop a centralized toolkit for faculty members serving on search and selection committees. The toolkit will include resources that address: unconscious bias training; inclusive recruitment searches; benefits of the Ann Arbor-Detroit area for diverse audiences; optimally functioning search committees (composition, skills, structure); inclusive job descriptions and interviewing techniques; and inclusive group decision-making.
- The School of Nursing has launched a multifaceted plan to significantly increase the proportion of faculty, staff and students from populations underrepresented in nursing — including males, and persons from African American, Asian, Hispanic and Native American descent, and other cultures.
- The College of Pharmacy will work to building connections with faculty members from minority serving institutions by offering funded sabbatical research positions.
- LSA launched the Collegiate Postdoctoral Fellowship Program in October 2016. The purpose of the program is to support promising scholars who are committed to diversity in the academy and to prepare those scholars for possible tenure-track appointments in LSA. The goal is to appoint 50 of these fellows over the next five years.
- The Division of Public Safety and Security has designated a specific liaison position to build relationships between DPSS and Student Life programs, student leaders and student communities.
- Within the residence halls, “walk and talks” between Housing Security officers and building residents are regular occurrences throughout the year with various safety awareness education and relationship building occurring between residents and officers.
- Annual neighborhood canvassing efforts sponsored by Beyond the Diag also contribute to relationship building between law enforcement officers and students in the off-campus community.
- For the second year in a row, a successful Pancakes and Politics daylong conference is planned for March that will bring together students of color and law enforcement officers from Ann Arbor and UMPD to promote understanding and dialogue. The event also will include presentation sessions from UMPD such as “Anatomy of a Traffic Stop,” “Who is Policing Me? Jurisdiction on Campus” and “What is Community Outreach?”
- The DPSS Community Outreach unit also meets with students and community members to promote safety issues.
- The UMPD chief attends the southeast Michigan ALPACT (Advocates and Leaders for Police and Community Trust), which is a group of community leaders working to promote understanding and cooperation with the public and with identity groups. Last year, the president of the Students of Color of Rackham attended as an invited guest when it was hosted in Washtenaw County.
- Crime alerts are issued when a crime is reported to law enforcement, either on or near campus, that in the judgment of the UMPD commanders constitutes an ongoing or continuing threat to the university community. The alerts are distributed via email to all U-M Ann Arbor students, staff and faculty; fliers posted around campus; email to non-campus subscribers; and the Division of Public Safety & Security website: dpss.umich.edu/.
- Student Life has convened undergraduate and graduate/professional diversity, equity, and inclusion student advisory boards to ensure student engagement in and provide student feedback on the implementation and assessment of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Strategic Plan. Each cohort meets monthly with the vice president for student life and the dean of students.
- The university will develop and implement a campuswide education effort to raise awareness among students, faculty and staff about the various ways to report bias. The university will actively educate the campus community about all available avenues of reporting (online, by phone and/or in person), as well as conflict resolution services and other resources for those experiencing bias.
- Additional ideas involve creating a more visible way to make transparent the institutional response to bias events, exploring software system that permits “opt in and out” for bias and institutional statement notifications and exploring a process that allows students to self-identify the level of bias notifications they desire.
- The university allocates funds to meet the emergency needs of all students. The Office of the Provost has created a central website to publicize emergency funding options from each school and college and links to applications, including: Central Student Government, Student Life, Black Student Union, Financial Aid, Office Dean of Students Office and other key locations. More information can be found at provost.umich.edu/studentemergencyfunds.html.
- The off-campus listing service provided through Beyond the Diag allows students to search for housing by specifying a range of rental costs. The Dean of Students Office provides general emergency funding for students for a variety of needs including transportation to and from campus for classes, student activities and events.
- Staff members in the Dean of Students Office work with staff members in the Office of Financial Aid and partner with emergency funds available in the various schools and colleges to assist students with particular needs. Detailed information about funding available can be found at the following link: provost.umich.edu/studentemergencyfunds.html.
- The LSA Emergency Scholarship provides scholarships for qualified LSA students in emergency situations where a dire event has occurred. Scholarships can cover educational expenses for the Fall or Winter terms (tuition, fees, room and board, books etc.) and non-educational related expenses (food, utility bills, prescriptions, emergency travel, health insurance, medical bills etc.) as long as the student has experienced a recent unexpected emergency. More information can be found atlsa.umich.edu/scholarships/currentstudents/emergency-scholarship.html.
Race & ethnicity education
- Revised guidelines were developed to assist faculty preparing to submit proposals for new Race & Ethnicity courses and for the recertification process. These are available via the Undergraduate Education/Curriculum Committee section of the LSA website:lsa.umich.edu/lsa/faculty-staff/undergraduate-education/curriculum-committee/course-approval-requests—forms.html.
- In December 2016, Intergroup Relations hired a new instructor charged with, among other things, developing ideas for race and ethnicity engagement, an attempt to bring dialogue techniques into the R&E classrooms, especially for discussion sections of larger R&E lecture courses.
- The Center for Research on Learning and Teaching is delivering inclusive teaching workshops and events for faculty, touching every school and college on campus. Additionally, the Faculty Communities for Inclusive Teaching has recently been funded for a third year. This initiative is designed to build faculty capacity for supporting an inclusive campus climate through their teaching in classrooms, clinics, studios or labs through the funding of small exploratory grants.
- LSA recently launched the LSA Democracy in Action Fund to celebrate and promote an inclusive community, with an emphasis on civil, productive dialogue between students, faculty and staff of all backgrounds.
- The Bentley has undertaken to identify and collect the archival materials for the history of African-American students at the university.
- The Heritage Project at the University of Michigan is an immersive, digital experience of U-M’s past. It is a collection of multimedia stories about the people who have shaped, and been shaped by, one of the world’s great public universities. More information can be found atheritage.umich.edu/.
Creating a more diverse student body
- The Office of Undergraduate Admissions has worked to increase diversity in our applicant pool, make timely admission and financial aid offers, recruit and connect with admitted students earlier and more often, and engage and assist families through the process in more effective ways.
- In February 2016, the university initiated the first cohort in Wolverine Pathways, an innovative pipeline program focused on creating a path to college readiness for middle and high school students in the Southfield Public and Ypsilanti Community school districts. The program will be expanded to Detroit in Fall 2017. Wolverine Pathways scholars who successfully complete the program, then apply to U-M and are admitted, will receive a full, four-year scholarship for tuition and fees plus additional aid, based on their financial need.
- We will refine the existing mission of the Center for Educational Outreach to serve as a campuswide hub for K-12 outreach. CEO will be responsible for working with the myriad existing outreach efforts located throughout the university to develop a more coordinated university-level strategy for community engagement. In its new role, CEO will serve to significantly improve the university’s capacity and effectiveness. In addition, the center will work with faculty and student groups to help provide training experiences intended to make them more effective and legitimate community partners in their own individual efforts.
- The university will establish more formal relationships with urban schools across the country, with the goal of encouraging students from these schools to apply to and attend U-M. The Urban School Initiative will provide recruitment and enrollment programs — including outreach events, workshops and activities — targeting schools in urban areas such as Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Baltimore, Newark, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
- The university will develop admissions, recruitment and student support programming consistent with the principles of the unique sovereign relationship that exists with Native American populations in the United States. The Office of Enrollment Management will collaborate with on- and off-campus partners to create both recruitment and engagement opportunities in support of these and other federally recognized tribes. Specifically, OEM will partner with College Horizons, an organization dedicated to increasing enrollment among Native American, Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian students. We also will expand financial access to the Michigan Tuition Waiver.
- To increase the socioeconomic diversity of the university’s undergraduate population and improve access for underserved communities in Michigan, the university will continue to pilot the HAIL (High Achieving Involved Leaders) Scholarship program. This initiative provides full tuition and fees for high-achieving, low-income students from across the state. In addition to financial support, the program removes barriers in the application process that can impede low-income high school students from applying successfully. Currently in its second year, the pilot program will be fully assessed after three years of data have been collected.
- Building on the success of initial support programs aimed at retaining first-generation undergraduate and graduate students, the university has established a dedicated position to coordinate and grow both academic and co-curricular support for students across campus who are the first in their families to attend college.
- Inspired by the advocacy of the Black Student Union, and as part of our overall effort to encourage productive dialogue across differences and create opportunities for students to come together, the university is building a new multicultural center in the heart of campus. Designed as a hub for multicultural education, event and activities, the new facility will have enhanced staff capacity for innovative programming. It will offer a venue for students to engage in programs and activities designed to develop cultural learning and awareness and build skills for collaborative engagement in an increasingly global and diverse community. In addition, the center will continue to provide space for student organizations to hold events and will offer a wide range of educational and support programs for student experiencing bias, including health and wellness programs in resiliency and self-care.