University Council talks DEI, changes to the academic calendar
The University of Michigan’s University Council convened on Monday night for its first biweekly meeting of the semester, discussing topics including the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and changes to the academic calendar.
The meeting opened with guest speaker Robert Sellers, the vice provost for equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer. Sellers touched on the DEI plan’s progress and various initiatives that have been implemented for the past year.
Sellers presented council members with the goals of DEI, which includes making their strategic plan as inclusive as possible, noting the diversity of experience students possess across various schools and programs on campus. There are currently 49 strategic unit plans, and each respective school, college and campus unit has their own plan suited to their specific needs. There is also a campus-wide strategic plan being implemented by DEI that aims to promote collaboration across programs and express solidarity regarding certain topics.
The discussion then shifted to questions regarding the Go Blue Guarantee and its potential effect on students. The Go Blue Guarantee, effective January 2018, promises free tuition for four years to in-state undergraduate students on the Ann Arbor campus with family incomes under $65,000.
CSG Vice President Nadine Jawad, a Public Policy senior, expressed concerns for the lower middle range of students applying for aid but not meeting the income threshold required for the new effort. Council members asked questions regarding where the cut-off income for the guarantee lies, and which students truly benefit from it.
“(The Go Blue Guarantee) is a gradually need-based policy,” Sellers said. “It is the most affordable need-based aid educational opportunity within the state (of Michigan).”
In terms of DEI's progress since its launch in October 2016, Sellers told council members the goal is to make DEI a critical part of the University’s core values while inciting long-term institutional change. The fact that DEI is now a term widely recognized by students is a sign of its effectiveness over the past year, according to Sellers.
LSA senior Nicholas Fadanelli, president of LSA Student Government, explained preliminary efforts being made to potentially change the academic calendar for upcoming school years, specifically extending Winter Break or shortening summer break. These alterations to the calendar will most likely not be effective until the 2020-2021 school year.
“This has been on the backburner for a couple years now,” Fadanelli said. "There’s a decent number of faculty members who don’t want to lose a week from their very long summer.”
There are varying opinions across the University’s schools, but council members discussed sending out surveys to their respective schools in order to determine students’ opinions on the proposition.
“A lot of people decide to do internships in the summer, and that week at the end (of break) could make a difference,” Jawad said.
Fadanelli told council members that a consolidated opinion on behalf of the entire University Council could be more effective when presenting the proposition to administration, which they are planning to have complete by spring break.