University launches diversity strategic plan after year of planning

Rob Sellers,Vice Provost for Equity, Inclusion and Academic Affairs, introduces the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan at the Michigan Union on Thursday.

Rob Sellers,Vice Provost for Equity, Inclusion and Academic Affairs, introduces the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan at the Michigan Union on Thursday. Buy this photo
Elizabeth Xiong/Daily

 

Thursday, October 6, 2016 - 11:27am

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After over a year of planning, The University of Michigan launched its five-year Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategic plan Thursday morning.

The University-wide plan includes 49 individual unit plans, which are individualized for the schools, colleges and administrative, athletic or other departments within the University.

“The campus-wide plan is a set of actions for today,” Schlissel said. ““We cannot live up to our full potential as a University unless everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute and to benefit.”

Three key themes tie together the University-wide initiatives to the operational unit plans: creating an inclusive and equitable campus climate, developing a diverse community, and supporting inclusive scholarship and teaching.  At the plan’s introduction Thursday morning in the Power Center, Schlissel said the University will commit $85 million over the next five years to fund DEI efforts, in addition to the current annual fund of $40 million a year.

Nearly 700 audience members attended the introduction, though student attendance was noticeably low in comparison to the full student body, a common factor in many University-sponsored diversity events.

Rob Sellers, current vice provost of equity, inclusion and academic affairs — who may serve as the University’s inaugural chief diversity officer pending Board of Regents approval later this month — presented a short executive summary of the plan. Unit-level actions specified include recruitment efforts like Wolverine Pathways — a program giving local high schoolers of underrepresented minorities the chance to earn a tuition scholarships — and new investments in urban schools and underrepresented populations such as first-generation and Native American students.

Additionally, students, faculty and staff will all undergo some form of intercultural training, with special emphasis on DEI professional development for the University’s deans and executive leadership team.

Sellers said the plan’s success rests on commitment from all levels of campus community.

“I accept this position, but in no way does this fall on me alone,” he said, pointing in particular to his recommendation of creating a chief diversity officer. “It takes a village to raise a plan.”

Many of the morning session’s speakers, including Schlissel, Sellers, Provost Martha Pollack and Regent Mike Behm (D), made references to a series of racially charged incidents on campus in the last few weeks, which prompted a series of student protests.

After anti-Black, anti-LGBTQ and anti-Muslim flyers were posted on Central Campus, multiple student protests and statements have criticized the administration’s DEI initiative as too farsighted and lacking in immediate solutions.

Pollack said recent events highlight the urgency and importance of the DEI strategic plan.

“It’s only human to respond with anger and sometimes with fear, emotions that have been felt deeply on this campus,” she said. “I share the grief and outrage felt by our students, faculty and staff. We must cling to the vision of what the world must be....and that is what the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plan is all about.”

In response to the fliers, Schlissel held a community conversation Sunday afternoon and also debuted several administrative changes at a leadership breakfast Wednesday morning tied to the plan, including two student advisory groups on race and the creation of the chief diversity officer.

“In recent weeks, ugly and vile hatred have singled out groups in our community and sought to divide us,” Schlissel said Thursday. “We have to learn from our failures and mistakes...our Michigan is better for it.”

Behm also acknowledged the importance of student activism in motivating some of these changes, and affirmed the Regents’ commitment to the plan’s success.

“We want U of M to be a place where there is no doubt everyone in our community belongs,” he said. “Honest conversations about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are difficult.”

This is a developing story. Check back at michigandaily.com for updates.