Nearly 50 faculty members from various departments across the University of Michigan gathered to generate “big and bold” ideas for a more diverse, equitable and inclusive campus at the staff town hall Thursday.
Each attendee was given three notecards: one yellow, one blue and one white. On their yellow notecard, every faculty member wrote one general idea coupled with an action plan to work toward diversity, equity and inclusivity. A PowerPoint displayed at the front of the room instructed faculty to think big.
“If you were 10 times bolder and in charge, what would you do to improve diversity, equity and inclusion at the University of Michigan? What is your first action step?”
The blue card was for additional ideas, and staff members could use white cards if they would like to be contacted directly — the other two cards were anonymous.
After filling out the cards, the town hall then transitioned into a “crowdsourcing activity,” a dynamic atmosphere where faculty exchanged their cards with one another until a bell sounded. Each person read the card in their hands and wrote a rating on the back of the card — one = no thanks, to five = I’m in!. This cycle of shuffle, read, rate, repeat continued for five rotations.
Anu Agrawal, Rackham Institute faculty member, said he thought the on the crowdsourcing activity went well.
“It is a great way to engage everyone in a very non-threatening way,” Agrawal said.
Those in possession of the cards with the highest ratings then read them aloud. Many of these cards touched on increasing pay equity among staff, making diversity a priority in the recruiting of students and establishing mandatory staff training in regard to understanding and perpetuating diversity, equity and inclusion. The themes were similar to those raised in another staff town hall last year.
Many faculty members were unaware the University has a diversity recruiter who helps increase outreach to potential applicants. More than half the room did not know who their section leads — those responsible for communicating with other departments and colleges — are.
Dianne Magier, a University of Michigan Health Services human resources consultant, articulated the need for increased transparency.
“We do not want to reinvent the wheel,” Magier said. “So how do we take the time and let people come forward? How do we make things more transparent and available?”
The meeting concluded with an outline of the Overall Strategic Planning Structure, led by the Diversity Executive Leadership Team and Diversity Working Group.
Laurita Thomas, associate vice president for University human resources, said town halls such as this one are a big part of the diversity planning process.
“We wanted to make sure, as the president has asked, that everyone have the opportunity to share ideas and suggestions and experience,” Thomas said. “We had gotten some feedback that staff were not necessarily being included where they worked. In order to address that, we wanted to have four generic town halls so that staff, whether they are participating or not, have the opportunity to participate.”