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As a kickoff to its week of summit events, marking one year since the launch of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plan, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion debriefed results of its sample climate survey Monday to the student body at the Michigan Union. The event also allowed for dialogue between students, faculty, staff and the U-M Survey Research Center and SoundRocket team who conducted the survey. About 20 students, faculty and staff attended.
The meeting began with Robert Sellers, the vice provost for equity and inclusion, who discussed the purpose of the survey and its significance to the DEI initiative.
“In this day of alternative facts, where facts have lost a little bit of its value, we feel strongly that what we are attempting to do needs to be based on the very best (measurements) at hand, and we also need to find ways to assess what progress we have made and also the challenges that we still have yet to achieve,” Sellers said.
Assistant Vice Provost Katrina Wade-Golden, who oversaw the implementation of the plan, then went on to describe how the survey was conducted and its results, citing the desire to measure the “temperature” of the University of Michigan’s campus climate and how mindsets can be evolved.
“One thing that we know from social science research is that you don’t change hearts and minds by lectures,” Wade-Golden said. “You change hearts and minds by (content).”
While Wade-Golden found some results surprising — such as the 48 percent of students with disabilities stating they have experienced a discriminatory event in the past 12 months on campus — some students are not surprised with some of the survey’s conclusions. Public Policy senior Jordan Sandman said he was not surprised with the data, especially regarding the responses from underrepresented minorities, but was surprised with the overall high satisfaction level of the University’s efforts.
“I notice that this campus is pretty self-segregated,” Sandman said. “I think if you ask a lot of people and really dug deeper rather than just having one question where it's a percentage of people who respond that they have an interaction, if you actually look at the interactions that occur day to day that it’s far more stratified based on race.”
LSA sophomore Kendall Kaiser said she was not surprised about the overall results, but cited her surprise at the individual racial statistics and how they may have changed in response to regarding recent bias incidents on campus.
“The problem the University of Michigan has is being prideful of an inclusive environment, but true progress hasn’t been made in making this environment more inclusive,” Kaiser said.
Postdoctoral fellow Austin McCoy also did not find the results shocking, but believes the DEI plan is more long-term than short-term.
“It sounds like this DEI plan is a long-term plan," McCoy said. "I respect the fact that the administration is trying to address these issues over the long term, but what seems to be missing is a short-term plan (in) how we address issues pertaining to racism or any other forms of discrimination for students that are still here because they are the ones who are experiencing these sorts of interactions and these events.”
Throughout anti-racist protests last year, frustrated students criticized planners' overlooking of immediate needs and asked Why wait until 2025, will I even be alive?
Wade-Golden also briefly mentioned an update regarding Richard Spencer’s request to speak at the University.
She said a meeting was held at University President Mark Schlissel’s home. LSA senior Ethan Hong attended the session with various student organizations and University executive officers was at the session, and said he attended alongside student organizations and executive officers. Hong said officials have not yet come to a conclusion regarding Spencer’s appearance, but the decision will be released within the next week.
University spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen wrote in an email statement the meeting at his house was scheduled prior to Spencer’s request to speak on campus.
“No decisions have been made yet regarding Spencer's request to speak on campus,” Broekhuizen wrote. “This is a followup meeting to one they had earlier this year, and was scheduled before the request from Spencer's team arrived to speak on campus.”
The controversy surrounding Spencer coming to speak on campus follows after the suit from Spencer's tour organizer against Michigan State University for refusing to host the white nationalist on campus earlier this year. On Friday, a federal judge ordered MSU officials into court mediation to settle the dispute, ruling that the school violated free speech rights in what could set precedent for the University's decision on Spencer. The speaker's appearances on other campuses, including the University of Florida in September, have sparked large protests and unrest, but schools from Penn State to Texas A&M canceled requests in the aftermath of white supremacist rallies led by Spencer in Charlottesville, VA.