Over ice cream sundaes, LSA Dean Andrew Martin held an open forum as part of a continuing series of #withDeanMartin talks.
Approximately 20 students gathered in the Michigan Union’s Pond Room on Thursday night to ask Martin questions about various topics, including the University’s forthcoming diversity plan and course evaluations.
During the talk, Martin emphasized his support for University President Mark Schlissel’s new diversity plan that is moving forward this year. Schlissel is currently soliciting input from the University’s various units and departments to inform a larger strategic plan to improve diversity and inclusion at the University.
“It’s an incredibly important process for the University, and I think it’s going to provide us a really nice plan for what we are going to be doing as an institution going forward,” Martin said. “It’s really something that this campus holds as a core value.”
Martin said different departments within LSA are working on specific initiatives that could eventually coordinate into a campus-wide strategic plan down the road.
“All the schools and colleges are going through a coordinated strategic planning process this academic year, and at the very end this is all going to roll up into a University-wide strategic plan,” Martin said. “In LSA, there are a handful of different discrete activities that we are doing that are all working together.”
Martin also touched on how diversity could be increased in nonacademic areas.
He said the University’s Office for Student Life is currently engaging in a strategic planning process as well.
“We know that on campus at various times and in various places that we do not have a climate that fully embraces the diversity of our student population,” he said. “A lot of what happens here that is social, cultural and academic happens out in the residence halls in our community and it’s important that we try to have the best climate we possibly can.”
LSA sophomore Patrick Mullan-Koufopoulos said he thought the new diversity plan was important moving forward for the University.
“I think that it’s a really interesting plan and I support it wholeheartedly,” he said. “I think that as a campus we need more diversity and I think that we are moving in the right direction.”
Martin also discussed the recent faculty senate vote to support the delay of releasing course evaluations. Many faculty members have addressed concerns with the University’s current course evaluation mechanisms and have advocated for revisions before the data is released.
Martin said this information should be available to students.
“This is something that my leadership team and I have discussed over the past few weeks and although this is not a unanimous view, it is the view of the college that students should have access to course evaluations,” he said.
He said the administration has reached a standstill on the issue, but he believes students have the power to get the information.
“We are sort of at an impasse,” Martin said. “As you all know, you as students have agency here. You can obtain the data, but it may be costly. You’ve got resources through Central Student Government or LSA Student Government that could go ahead and get the data and publish it in some way. In my judgment it would be the right thing for these data to be available.”
In addition to discussing the University’s diversity plan and course evaluations, Martin fielded questions on a recent CSG proposal to list mental health resources in course syllabi, the University’s race and ethnicity requirement and dual-degree programs.
One student asked about why some schools, like the Ford School of Public Policy, do not allow students to complete majors in two different schools.
“This is a decision that the Ford School has made,” he said. “We would be happy to have dual-degree students with the other schools and colleges. It doesn’t make any sense to tell a student who’s going to complete the requirement for a major that they cannot get the real major on their transcript.”