The drop in minority enrollment on this campus is a national scandal. The numbers just released for 2014-2015 show that enrollment of underrepresented minority students is the lowest it has been since 1970; this year’s freshman class is 3.7 percent black, 4.3 percent Latin@, and 1.4 percent Native American.
For more than 40 years, the University has broken the promises it made to the Black Action Movement after the movement shut down the campus in a three-week student strike demanding 10 percent Black enrollment within two years. The percentage of Black students on this campus today is less than in 1973. This is the new Jim Crow.
The University’s admissions policies discriminate against minority students by ignoring the reality of segregation and inequality of our schools, racial biases in standardized tests and pretending racism doesn’t exist. These policies have led to broader attacks on public education, integration and equal opportunity in K-12 schools, most starkly in the immediate and rapid degradation of education in Detroit following the ban on affirmative action.
The struggle of the Black community of Ferguson against racism and police brutality is the much-needed antidote to these worsening conditions everywhere in the country. Students on this campus, inspired by the struggle in Ferguson are taking matters into their own hands, and asserting the leadership of the student movement over and against the inept, cynical dysfunctional leadership of the administration.
We cannot afford to have any more illusions in this administration. Since 2006, the University has used Proposal 2 as an excuse for the drop in minority enrollment. But the steady decline began even before the ban on affirmative action. There’s no good excuse for this drop. Prop 2 doesn’t prevent the University from adopting admissions policies like the 10 percent plan implemented in Texas following the ban on affirmative action there. The plan guarantees acceptance to the flagship campus to the top 10 percent of every high school in the state, eliminating the most biased admissions criteria, standardized tests, for a large portion of admissions. The policy has been very popular and successful. Compared to the University of Texas at Austin, this University, despite its liberal reputation, is becoming a segregated backwater. Students admitted under the 10 percent plan perform as well or better than the students admitted based on their SAT scores. The 10 percent plan has also opened the University to poor, working-class and rural white students who had been excluded before.
The only reason not to adopt such a plan is to maintain the elitism, and the University’s prerogative to do whatever they want with no public accountability.
As the University has become more privatized and focused on the interests of rich donors over the interests of the students and the character of education, the administration has risen to a new level of arrogance, hypocrisy and utter disregard for the minority, women, immigrant and international students on this campus.
This administration has a well-rehearsed routine of saying pious words about diversity, making false promises, creating distractions from the real issues and co-opting and threatening student leaders. The recent statements by University President Mark Schlissel at the Board of Regents’ meeting about the University’s diversity plan made clear that nothing has changed on the part of the administration.
The Daily reported that Schlissel announced the administration had “formed a leadership committee to consider the changes recommended by the provost’s faculty-led committee on diversity and inclusion … and the committee released a report detailing several potential changes, including the creation of a strategic plan for diversity.”
Regarding the administration’s ongoing meetings with the Black Student Union, Schlissel said “These ongoing discussions are resulting in very productive consultations.” What?!
Every year, the administration creates another committee to work on minority enrollment or campus climate or sexual assault awareness, and they are always the same: ‘Diversity Blueprints,’ ‘Expect Respect,’ and now ‘Change It Up’ and the ‘Inclusive Language Campaign,’ the committee for ‘student input’ regarding renovations to the Trotter Multicultural Center and the decade-long search for a more central location for the building.
It’s time to cut the crap. WE DON’T WANT ANY MORE COMMITTEES. As long as the number of minority students continues to drop, racism on campus will increase. As long as the administration covers up rape instead of punishing the rapists, the real message will be clear that rape goes unpunished on this campus, and incidents of rape, sexual assault and harassment will continue to be rampant on this campus, no matter how many sexual assault-training programs students are forced to attend.
ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS. If you are tired of the administration’s worn-out lies, broken promises and endless failed committees; if you have been raped or been the victim of racist or sexist attacks or harassment on this campus, and want to fight for real justice, come speak out at our public tribunal on hostile campus climate this Friday at 7 p.m. in the Henderson room in the Michigan League. It’s time to take matters into our own hands, to build the power of the student movement to win real justice, equality and dignity for everyone.
Tala Taleb is an LSA Freshman and Defend Affirmative Action Party candidate for CSG Representative. Joseph Frailey is an LSA Freshman. Sienna Yoo is an LSA Freshman. Austin Hamling is an LSA Junior. Kate Stenvig is an Alum. The authors are members of BAMN.