More than 45 members of the University of Michigan campus community gathered in the Central Campus Classroom Building on Thursday evening to participate in a town hall related to the University’s upcoming Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plan — DEI 2.0. The event featured a student panel, a Q&A with University leadership and a crowd-sourcing activity to inform the attendees about DEI 2.0, which will build on DEI 1.0’s efforts to assist different departments at the University in creating an inclusive and equitable environment.
Katrina Wade-Golden, associate vice provost and deputy chief diversity officer, kicked-off the event by emphasizing the importance of involving the community in the development of DEI initiatives.
“We think this is incredibly important as we move forward with our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan, such that it is really grounded in the perspectives and the needs and the priorities of our community,” Wade-Golden said.
LSA junior Peter Tam, Central Student Government coalition engagement director, was one of the student panelists. He spoke at the town hall about his personal experience with U-M DEI programs.
“One of the main things that I’ve seen is improvements in accessibility and affordability,” Tam said. “I am low-income, and I’ve benefited from the Michigan Undergraduate Laptop Program. For those of you who don’t know what it is, it’s just a program that offers students free laptops, so that they can engage in college without worrying about the need to pay for one.”
Business graduate student Jumanah Saadeh, another student panelist, highlighted student engagement as a central focus of DEI 1.0 in addition to programs which lower financial barriers.
“I think that accessibility and a number of reforms (have) been a really big focus of DEI 1.0, including ways that people can access programs–so financially, for sure, but also ways that people can engage across campus,” Saadeh said.
Saadeh said DEI should also be a part of faculty and staff hiring decisions. Under DEI 1.0, University faculty and staff demographics have become more diverse. Saadeh said this trend needs to continue under DEI 2.0 next fall to ensure that the student body can see their identities reflected in those of their instructors.
“Part of (community engagement) also has to do with seeing a more inclusive campus and … seeing more of yourself represented,” Saadeh said. “I know that has also been the case with diverse faculty hires and with programs shifting to include more curricular activities that have to do with varying stories.”
Wade-Golden also said she considers the DEI Implementation Leads Group, colloquially known as “DEI Leads” essential to advancing DEI initiatives on campus across the various schools and colleges at the University. DEI Leads are U-M faculty and staff members responsible for ensuring University-wide DEI efforts implemented at a departmental level. Wade-Golden said she is confident the DEI Leads will continue to be important to ensuring that the positive impact of DEI 2.0 programs reach students in every academic discipline.
“One of the critical elements that really is a key factor to our ability to move this work forward is that all of the schools and colleges as well as administrative and service units on campus have what we call DEI Leads,” Wade-Golden said.
Social Work graduate student Jadie Chauncey attended the town hall and said she appreciated having a platform to share her opinions with University administration before DEI 2.0 is officially rolled out. Still, she expressed her desire for the University to take more initiative to seek out student feedback directly rather than expecting students to make active efforts to attend events.
“I think these (town hall) events are great, but I also think that they’re not accessible to all of the students on our campus,” Chauncey said. “(The University could) give more updates and more communication through maybe more student-centered spaces, whether that be (the Spectrum Center) and (Trotter Multicultural Center) or just really trying to meet students where they are instead of always needing them to come to us for events and various things.”
Daily Staff Reporter Shao Hsuan Wu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.