It is a known fact that the University of Michigan is made up of predominantly white students. Many students, however, are unaware of the actual demographics of undergraduates, and thus unaware of the effects of being a minority on campus. This week, the BBA DEI Task Force set out to spark conversation in the Ross School of Business with a creative installation called “UM Undergrads in 100 Students." The installation consisted of two boards listing the percentages of white and minority students broken down by race, with different colored balloons representing each demographic, corresponding to each percentage on a scale of 100 students.
According to Mia Heard, Ross junior and the communications coordinator of the BBA DEI Task Force, the display accomplished its goal of gaining the attention of BBA students.
“People were standing around it and taking pictures and making comments…it’s actually making an impact and we’ve been getting a lot of positive response,” she said.
Heard came up with the installation because she thought a visual display would be the most impactful way to get other BBA students to pay attention to the issue of ethnic representation at Michigan. She wants people to truly visualize the disparities in ethnic representation here and how that can affect their day to day experiences as a student, and spark conversations about this problem.
She poignantly stated, “I hope people understand that like, ‘There’s only four balloons over there, let me pay attention to how many Black people are in my class.. oh wow she is the only Black person in my class, that could be difficult for her.’” Furthermore, Heard wants the student body to understand that “people’s ethnicity affects their day-to-day experience at Michigan,” with “potential for one’s identity to get in the way of their success.” In addition to the very low percentages of Black, Hispanic, Asian, Hawaiian and Native American students on campus, the installation explained that the percentage of Middle Eastern/North African students is unknown due to the lack of enrollment data. This is another way in which one’s minority status can greatly affect their experiences and availability of resources in college.
This powerful installation was an effective way to spark dialogue about the instability of POC representation on campus, and illuminate the implications of having a majority-white campus. We hope that these conversations continue to reverberate and inspire change among the administration and among each other- fostering greater understanding, awareness, and acceptance.