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University charts new initiatives in light of BBUM campaign

By Sam Gringlas, Daily News Editor
Published January 16, 2014

After students and supporters around the world logged more than 10,000 tweets during the #BBUM campaign last semester to shed light on the experiences of Black University students, University Provost Martha Pollack announced a host of initiatives Thursday night designed to address diversity issues on campus.

In an e-mail sent to University students and faculty, Pollack promised to initiate improvements at the Trotter Multicultural Center and the creation of an administrative leadership position dedicated to increasing minority recruitment and retention, as well as implement a residence hall program to foster inclusion and understand across many campus constituencies.

“This commitment is longstanding and fundamental to who we are as an institution,” Pollack wrote. “And yet, there are times we have not lived up to our highest aspirations.”

The University’s minority enrollment has fallen sharply since the passage of Proposal 2 — the 2006 ballot initiative that banned the consideration of race in college admissions, among other factors. In fall 2013, the University’s Black students made up 4.65 percent of the undergraduate population, compared to 7 percent in fall 2006.

In November, the BBUM campaign called attention to feelings of isolation and discrimination faced by Black students on campus. E. Royster Harper, vice president for student life, signed up for Twitter after the campaign launched to participate in the discussion.

“Got on Twitter to hear and support your voices,” she tweeted in November. “Proud of our students.”

The campaign arrived on the heels of several controversial incidents related to race, including a planned fraternity party that was branded with racialized words and images.

Since the BBUM campaign launched in November, several administrators and regents have vowed to address the campus climate related to issues of race, diversity and inclusion.

“We’re as frustrated as the students, but we’re very committed to these topics,” said Regent Denise Ilitch (D) in December.

However, the University has largely refrained from offering up specific initiatives or programs until Thursday’s message.

In an interview with The Michigan Daily on Tuesday, University President Mary Sue Coleman said students could soon expect to hear more about the University’s progress on the issue. She also said diversity was a significant topic in conversations with students.

“It was very good to get the issues out on the table, talk about how students felt, talk about what they thought should be done and that work will continue,” Coleman said.

She added that institutions will never finish striving toward more diverse and inclusive campuses and must constantly work to improve.

“It’s always something we need to be aware of and I hope we can make some good progress rapidly,” Coleman said.

Stemming from conversations with regents, administrators, faculty and students, Pollack and Harper have identified three key areas requiring immediate attention.