At their Wednesday meeting, Engineering Student Government discussed plans to host a review of the University’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plan, separate from the forums hosted by the College of Engineering, because of sentiments from students that they felt uncomfortable and unable to speak freely at University hosted events.
The planned review is slated to be held Thursday at 7 p.m. in Chesbrough Auditorium.
The DEI strategic plan is a University-wide initiative that aims to create a more diverse and inclusive campus atmosphere. It was launched by University President Mark Schlissel early this October. Under the umbrella of the overall plan, individual colleges are charged with organizing specific initiatives to increase diversity among their student populations.
The College of Engineering hosted several forums on the diversity plan this semester, but ESG President Rebekah Andrews, an Engineering senior, said she thought student-led forums may draw more underrepresented students to what she referred to as a more neutral space, saying the college’s events failed to facilitate an open environment.
“We definitely believe some thoughts weren’t captured due to that fact,” she said, adding that her goal for the meeting will be to bring more student-based concerns to the table.
In an interview after the meeting, she said she hoped the forum would engage more students about the plan because a student-hosted space would create a more neutral and casual environment. In particular, she said she’d heard from students that having administrators hold events made them feel they weren’t able to speak freely.
“We’re having the DEI review to go over the plan with more people so we know who we are representing and to capture more thoughts,” she said. “We would like to capture the thoughts that may not have been expressed during the administration one due to the weird dynamic of a non-neutral facilitation.”
Student dissatisfaction or lack of engagement with University events on the plan has been present in multiple colleges throughout the University, including for the College of LSA. At several forums hosted by LSA, student attendance was noticeably low in comparison with the overall size of the college’s student body.
As well, during DEI launch events and recent protests over both a series of anti-Black, anti-Islam and anti-LGBTQ posters discovered on campus and a planned debate on the merits of the Black Lives Matter movement, multiple students also expressed criticism about aspects of the plan.
At a protest over the planned Black Lives Matter debate outside of the Michigan League in September, LSA freshman Asia Green said she didn’t feel talking to administrators was an effective way to cause change.
“There are not enough events hosted, not enough forums,” Green said. “All of the people up higher always talk about how they want to promote diversity and inclusion but nothing is being done.”
During Wednesday’s meeting, Andrews also said she was concerned about the overall recognition of engineering students in the DEI plan, saying she has voiced her concerns with E. Royster Harper, the vice president for Student Life, about representation of engineering students on campus.
She said because engineering is prominently represented in the University’s student population, they should be included when administrative decisions are made regarding dining options and activities on North Campus, noting that art students and freshmen were also affected both those decisions.
Other ESG members, like Engineering junior Breanna DeCocker, agreed.
“What a lot of people consider the University is Central Campus,” DeCocker said, adding the University can leave out art, music and engineering students.
Engineering junior Madhav Sharma, an ESG member, said the lack of representation could be attributed to the amount of coursework engineering students face, leaving little time for social activities, noting many schools have this problem.
“I don’t think it’s even possible,” Sharma said, referring to a more active engineering school.
Engineering sophomore AJ Ashman, an ESG representative, noted the recurrence of the anti-Black, anti-Islam and anti-LGBTQ posters on campus, saying he’d heard from students who wished to see more tangible action than a statement of solidarity. He urged students to take action when they see other students being attacked.
“It’s your problem too — it’s an attack on everyone,” he said.