Diversity resolution passes assembly

By Stephanie Shenouda, Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 15, 2013

The push for increased student diversity in the admissions process continued Monday as faculty on the Senate Assembly voted to approve a resolution that would increase efforts to promote inclusivity. It will be presented to the administration with 28 members in favor, nine opposed and one abstention.

The goals of the four-part resolution include reassessment of the strategies used to increase diversity, adoption of active, intentional, creative and ongoing efforts to improve diversity, ensuring those efforts are woven into the University’s fabric, as well as publicly asserting the goal of improving diversity on all three University campuses.

The draft — which was approved by SACUA on April 8 — was also approved by the Committee on University Values and is yet to be seen by the Committee of Inclusivity.

Engineering prof. Kimberlee Kearfott, chair of SACUA, said the document that SACUA endorsed had been “substantially revised” before being presented to the Senate Assembly, but that their sentiments haven’t changed.

In a presentation given to the group prior to the vote, John Carson, associate professor of history and a member of SACUA’s Committee on University Values, called campus-wide diversity “strikingly urgent” and said the resolution was a call for “renewed effort” because of its effect on the University as a whole.

“The climate for diversity within the student body is tentative at best; how does that make the community feel?” Carson said. “It doesn’t look like that much is changing in the Ann Arbor campus.”

Carson added that the initiative was launched after data from The Atlantic suggested there was room for improvement within the University’s diversity efforts. Carson said he believes the administration could do more to improve the situation.

“It’s a public vision that has not yet yielded a great deal of University administrative response,” Carson said. “Diversity is not palpably present, and it is key to achieving our goal to be a center of learning and education for all.”

Many members expressed a sense of urgency about the issue, claiming that the public is gauging the University’s actions.

“It begs the question, given the fact U of M’s diversity is a very public conversation, if not a national embarrassment, how could the community not know what they’re doing given the urgency of this,” Residential College prof. David Turnley said.

While most members vocalized support for the resolution, dissenters in the room expressed feelings of hesitation.

“I do not support this resolution; I’m probably one of the few people who supports the administration in this matter,” Finn Larsen, SACUA member and physics professor, said. “I think the University is doing what they can in balancing legal and practical difficulties with regards to (diversity). It’s a very complex problem, and to say diversity is exclusively this is limiting.”

Larsen added that there have to be “difficult tradeoffs on both sides” in undertaking major issues such as campus-wide diversity.

“By narrowing this view of diversity, we’re simply not taking a modern view, we’re taking a view that was appropriate 30 years ago, and nowadays it’s illegal in the state of Michigan, and maybe even should be.”