Schlissel details planning process for forthcoming diversity initiative

University President Mark Schlissel speaks to Michigan Daily reporters in his office on Sept. 1, 2015.

University President Mark Schlissel speaks to Michigan Daily reporters in his office on Sept. 1, 2015.
Allison Farrand/Daily

 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - 8:36pm

University President Mark Schlissel hosted a second diversity summit Wednesday afternoon in which he further outlined the University’s plans to improve equity and inclusion on campus.

During the summit, the president emphasized the drive behind the planning process:

“Dedication to academic excellence for the public good is inseparable from our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” he said. “We cannot be excellent without being diverse in the broadest sense of that word.”

The meeting was closed to the press, but was live streamed on the University's website.

FULL TEXT: Read the full text of Schlissel's comments here.

Though a complete strategic plan has yet to be released, Schlissel detailed goals during Wednesday’s event to direct about 60 appointed facilitators within each college and campus unit to collaborate with faculty, staff and students to design their own programs for enhancing diversity within their units.

These planning leaders will be responsible for overseeing the planning process within their specific areas as well as participating in coordination with the overall campus diversity efforts.

Schlissel emphasized that success in enhancing diversity largely depends on the collective efforts of each individual department rather than simply the central administration.

“At this stage, we’re not seeking to define where we will end up or what success will necessarily look like,” he said. “We want to have a structure in place that will allow us to engage the great minds and passionate individuals on our campus and to move forward in a collaborative manner. This is a process that’s about your voices and your ideas.”

Schlissel added that the individual plans are due by the end of this academic year, and will be compounded into a comprehensive University plan to improve diversity, which will be set in place for September 2016.

“We know the process itself will be neither easy nor quick,” he said. “We will disagree at times, but the structure we’ve built is designed to encourage discussion, the sharing of successful programs and the development of new ideas. We want to encourage innovation to set broad parameters; not prescribed boxes.”

The president outlined programs already in place at the University to improve diversity and inclusion, including a program to package admission offers and financial aid awards. He also said the University plans to reach out earlier to students with incomplete applications and to improve outreach to admitted students before they decide to enroll. Kedra Ishop, the University’s associate vice president for enrollment management, led these efforts.

Schlissel told The Michigan Daily last week that these ongoing efforts would result in visible impacts to this year’s freshman enrollment numbers — a sentiment he echoed during Wednesday’s luncheon.

In recent years, Black enrollment at the University has hovered around 4 percent — a reality that has in part driven calls for new diversity efforts on campus. During the tail end of President Emerita Mary Sue Coleman’s tenure, members of the University’s Black Student Union called on the University to address several issues related to inclusion, equity and diversity.

The University will also launch a pilot program this year to improve the recruitment of students from economically disadvantaged families throughout Michigan. The program was developed with the help of Susan Dynarski, a University professor of education, economics and public policy. Known as the Hail Scholars Program, the effort is designed to increase applications to the University from high-achieving low-income students.

University Provost Martha Pollack and Doug Strong, then-interim chief financial officer, previously set up a staff committee on diversity, equity and inclusion, chaired by Laurita Thomas, associate vice president for human resources. They submitted their recommendations to enhance staff diversity and inclusiveness last month, and the report was posted online today.

So far, new faculty orientation this year included a session on leveraging student diversity in classroom discussions. Plans are in the process to extend this training to all faculty.

After remarks from the president, Robert Sellers, University vice provost for equity, inclusion and academic affairs, and Regent Shauna Ryder Diggs (D), tables of attendees discussed ideas for the improvement of diversity on campus. Facilitators at each table recorded the attendants’ ideas to contribute to the University’s plan.  

The University is planning a University-wide diversity summit scheduled for November.