LSA Dean Andrew Martin hosted about 20 students and faculty in the Hussey Room of the Michigan League Thursday to discuss the University's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan.
The event, #withDeanMartin, was one of a series of ongoing town hall-style forums held by Martin with the aim of facilitating communication and openness between the students and administration.
In the first of three planned guided forums on diversity, the discussion began with highlighting the role of admissions in diversifying the University. Martin said while the admissions process is fundamental, recruitment is perhaps more important in creating a diverse environment.
"The way in which we recruit students, and the way in which we orient students, and the way in which we sort of welcome students to join our community defines the climate for what we end up having on campus," Martin said.
The explicit use of race and other demographic factors in admissions for public colleges in Michigan was banned in 2006 by a statewide ballot proposal.
Martin noted the importance of reaching out to communities from which — due to differences of socioeconomic status — the University doesn't receive many applicants.
Angela Dillard, associate dean of undergraduate education, also addressed facilitating more inclusivity in study abroad programs.
"If we got every program to step back and ask itself questions about differential impacts, the effects of that would just be amazing," Dillard said.
Another prevalent subject was how faculty and graduate student instructors can be included in the initiative. Many students voiced support at the discussion for faculty and GSIs to be trained to encourage student engagement with diversity initiatives in their departments.
Dillard acknowledged that there is room to improve instructors’ sensitivity to issues of minority students, while adding that GSIs are often inadequately prepared to recognize and listen to concerns about the different ways in which students learn.
Discussing some of the diversity mandates that LSA currently implements, Martin asked the audience about their views on the goals of the college’s race and ethnicity course requirements. Currently, LSA is reviewing the requirements as part of their planning process for the University’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiative. At their meeting Tuesday, Central Student Government also discussed several resolutions aimed at strengthening the requirements.
Many students at the forum said they thought R&E courses were lacking meaningful engagement and integration outside of the classroom. Citing other mandated programs like Change it Up! — a program that aims to increase bystander intervention education — as well, one student suggested a long-term program would be more effective.
In response, Dillard pointed out the difficulties in expanding the program so drastically.
"How do you get that result, but without putting 'forcing everybody' into the same sentence?" Dillard asked.
Kinesiology junior Kristin Roberts said she was pleasantly surprised by the event, noting jokingly she only attended for the free food.
"It was definitely needed," Roberts said. "We could see that they were actually listening to us, agreeing with different points we were saying and kind of explaining what was going on."
LSA junior Reid Klootwyk, LSA student government vice president, said he felt the event was a unique opportunity.
"I think Dean Martin and Dillard are both really open to student engagement, which is key,” Klootwyk said. “It's not common for students to be able to engage in dialogue with deans, on all sorts of issues, and they're open to hearing our voices."
Klootwyk added that he was appreciative of the focus on faculty involvement in the diversity initiative.
"It wasn't the proposed guide for the discussion, but I think there's a lot to be said about the way that GSIs and faculty alike are trained,” he said. “The deans are the ones who make those calls, so yeah, it was really interesting."