Though University President Mark Schlissel has hosted several invite-only summits on diversity and inclusion since taking office last year, he is now taking those efforts campus-wide.
In an e-mail released to faculty, students and staff on Thursday, Schlissel invited members of the community to join him for an interactive assembly to discuss diversity, equity and inclusivity on campus. Clarence Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and senior editorial board member of the Chicago Tribune, will join as the event’s host.
“The University of Michigan is currently undertaking a campuswide strategic planning process to create our vision for a diverse, equitable and inclusive campus,” Schlissel wrote in the message. “Faculty, students and staff: Your voice, your participation and your ideas are vital to shaping the future of Michigan.”
The assembly aligns with a strategic planning process Schlissel has launched to address issues such as campus climate and the University’s accessibility to minority students. Schlissel has hosted two summits to discuss these topics and gather input toward the creation of a formal strategic plan for diversity. The most recent was held in September.
“Dedication to academic excellence for the public good is inseparable from our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” Schlissel said during the September address. “We cannot be excellent without being diverse in the broadest sense of that word.”
Along with the community assembly, the University will host five events on diversity: a reflection on the history of campus diversity; a public lecture featuring one of only three Black surgeon generals of the United States, a conversation titled Leadership for Diversity in Higher Education: A System-wide Commitment; and the release of a staff committee report on diversity, equity and inclusion.
Schlissel previously appointed 60 facilitators — representing each college and campus unit — to design programs for enhancing diversity unique to their unit.
In an interview with the Michigan Daily last month, Schlissel said he hoped to see initial initiatives to increase campus diversity reflected in Fall 2016 enrollment figures, which are typically released in October.
“We began implementing some of the changes in the admissions and financial aid procedure a year ago,” he said. “We should start to see modest incremental changes in the direction of diversity now.”
University conversations on diversity and race came to the forefront in 2013 when the University’s Black Student Union the #BBUM Twitter campaign, which encouraged students to share their experiences as Black students on campus. The hashtag spurred campus dialogue, particularly around the University’s decreasing minority population following the 2006 voter-enacted affirmative action ban in Michigan.
According to last October’s enrollment figures, Black students made up 4.63 percent of the undergraduate population in 2014.