On Thursday, a poster session designed to showcase how individual colleges, departments and administrative units plan to tackle issues surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion was held in the Power Center lobby as part of the University of Michigan’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan launch.
The University’s DEI strategic plan is a vision for a University-wide, grassroots process of creating a more diverse and inclusive campus atmosphere. The plan was introduced at the Power Center by University President Mark Schlissel, Provost Martha Pollack and Rob Sellers, vice provost for equity, inclusion and academic affairs, Thursday morning.
The introduction of the plan comes at a particularly sensitive time on campus, as recent events involving anti-Black, anti-Muslim, anti-LGBTQ and anti-women posters found on campus brought issues of diversity and inclusion to the forefront of campus conversation.
LSA freshman Torisa Johnson said she wanted to attend the poster session as a way to gauge how the University plans to create a more hospitable and welcoming atmosphere.
“I really did not appreciate the posters, and that is mostly why I am here today to see what (the University) is going to do,” Johnson said. “However, so far, most of what I have read seems a little general … but I think maybe it can help.”
While all the posters shared common themes, there were specific facets tailored to the different challenges each college and administrative unit faces. For example, the School of Natural Resources and Environment highlighted that though the school’s domestic minority population and international population has increased in recent years, 37.5 percent of the faculty are female.
The Office of Student Life poster highlighted student engagement in issues of diversity and the need for increased accessibility to the Trotter Multicultural Center. The Board of Regents approved a relocation of the multicultural center in April when Regent Mark Bernstein donated $3 million for its relocation, though many students protested the name change of the center from The William Monroe Trotter Center to Bernstein-Bendit Hall.
The LSA poster detailed plans to reevaluate the race and ethnicity requirement, citing the recent addition of Latisha Cunningham as the school’s new diversity, equity, inclusion and culture officer. The race and ethnicity requirement is a mandatory credit wherein students must take a course that touches upon either the meaning of race, ethnicity or racism, intolerance and inequality, or discrimination. The requirement has been under review as part of the plan to monitor its impact at increasing race relations at the University,
Social Work student Amanda Champagne said while comprehensive goals and aspirations like those in the DEI plan are necessary for the University to aspire to, she was interested in seeing if the plan will be implemented with a long-term perspective.
“I think that it is really important that (the University) is rolling out this plan, but not only having a plan but implementing it … and being held accountable for it in the future,” Champagne said.
Social Work student Minhee Choi emphasized the importance of student input and engagement when discussing diversity efforts on campus.
“I see the school trying to do things, but I think it is really difficult for us to engage the students here because … a lot of the students come in and their priority is not diversity but more about their future, career and education,” Choi said. “I think a lot of students catch the importance of diversity their junior or senior year, but by then, they are leaving.”