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Students, faculty and staff at the University of Michigan reported feeling less positive about the general University climate but better about the diversity, equity and climate specifically than in 2016 according to the 2021 DEI climate survey conducted at the University this past fall.
The findings of the survey were discussed at a series of sessions run by the U-M Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion for all interested U-M community members on Sept. 27 in the Michigan Union and Oct. 6 in the Michigan League. Both sessions were livestreamed, recorded and posted on the U-M Diversity, Equity & Inclusion website. These results come as the campus wraps up its first DEI five-year strategic plan, in which all departments on campus were provided a guiding framework for leadership and success by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
The framework was built around DEI Plan 1.0, which Chief Diversity Officer Tabbye Chavous referred to as “the first five-year plan”, prompting every department on campus to identify what DEI meant to them. Many units also came up with different practices around admissions, hiring and retention that have been implemented and are already making a difference, Chauvous explained.
William Axinn, research professor in the Sociology Department, presented the survey’s approach and methodology. The 2021 survey was developed by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and mirrored the survey conducted in 2016, with new additional questions on mental health, health and COVID-19.
Axinn said the online survey yielded a highly representative sample of students, staff and faculty, whose response rates were high: 49%, 62% and 64%, respectively.
“This is among the very best that’s ever been done,” Axinn said. “So we’re thrilled with that.”
Chavous led the conversation about the University’s DEI climate. Chavous explained the term, “climate,” and how it applies in a diversity, equity and inclusion context.
“Climate is intended to feel out a temperature that’s hot or cold,” Chavous said. “You can think about the climate of a setting in the same way — is it hot or is it cold? Is it uninviting? Is it unwelcoming? It really is about how people experience a setting — what they feel, observe, see on a daily basis.”
Grant Benson, Director of Data Collections for the Institute of Social Research, said he attended the event to better understand how he could implement these survey results into his work.
“I want to know: how can I contribute to bringing our department into alignment with University values?” Grant said. “When you talk about diversity, inclusion and justice in some cases, what are the action steps? What’s the next step? What can we actually do to promote those values?”
LSA junior Sophia Grant said she supports the University’s efforts to better incorporate DEI into campus life.
“There’s definitely a lot of places where we can grow and improve,” Grant said. “Not everything is completely equitable yet. I’ve talked to people who feel like they don’t feel as represented on campus. I think it’s important that we look at the results of these surveys and look at where we can go to improve from where we are now to making U-M more equitable.”
While the 2021 survey revealed a decline in respondents’ overall satisfaction with the U-M DEI climate since 2016, it also found that significant proportions of students, staff and faculty reported progress during the first five-year period. Over half of respondents voted that the current DEI climate is “much better” than it was at the start of the DEI strategic plan in 2016.
Chauvous explained and identified areas in which the first five-year strategic-plan improved DEI on campus.
“The term ‘DEI’ has saturated more areas in our university,” Chavous said. “There were units and areas on our campus where people would say things like, ‘DEI isn’t relevant to our unit.’ There is no unit on our campus (now) that can say that.”
The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will hold a follow-up session on Oct. 19 to evaluate the outcomes of DEI 1.0. Beyond that, DEI representatives plan to focus on the development of DEI 2.0, the second five-year strategic plan, and share this data with central leadership and establish faculty groups to engage in deeper analyses.
Although DEI 1.0 has raised awareness, the major goal for DEI 2.0 is taking action to achieve equity and inclusion goals throughout the entire U-M community, Chavrous said.
“When you look at the overall picture, we’ve hired more diverse faculty and staff, but when you look inside, you see that some units haven’t done that at all and some units have,” Chavous said. “So 2.0 is really about making strides toward recruitment, retention and enhancing the climate experiences of our community.”