In response to the release of the Fall 2014 enrollment numbers, By Any Means Necessary returned to campus Wednesday to protest the declining representation of minority students on campus.
The Fall 2014 enrollment report shows the number of underrepresented minority students dropped .6 percent from last year, down to 10 percent. According to the Office of the Registrar, Black enrollment for this year’s freshman class dropped to 3.84 percent and Hispanic enrollment dropped to 4.48 percent, down from 4.12 percent and 4.72 percent respectively. This comes amidst promises from University administrators, including University President Mark Schlissel, over the past year that on-campus diversity would become a priority. BAMN protestors called this dichotomy a real shame.
“The University has tried to maintain an image of being a really diverse school and keeps saying that they value diversity being a top priority and yet those numbers are saying the complete opposite of that,” said Jose Alvarenga, one of the organizers for the BAMN protest.
BAMN brought high school students from Detroit Collegiate Preparatory High School in Northwestern and the Detroit School of Arts. The group marched with signs and a megaphone around the Diag, ultimately returning again to the University admissions office as they did twice last spring. Alvarenga read aloud the group’s demands, which included doubling University minority enrollment through adoption of the Texas 10 percent plan — admitting the top ten percent of students at each high school in the state.
Because many Texas high schools are inherently segregated along lines of race and class, the arrangement brings a wider array of students by design and doesn’t rely on administrators making a decision based on race. The ten percent plan was ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, given it passed strict guidelines for admissions practices that include race. Alvarenga said the University could adopt a similar plan to work outside of the constraints of Proposal 2, which banned affirmative action in Michigan.
“Michigan can implement that now,” he said. “There’s nothing holding back Michigan from creating its own personal 10 percent plan. Not even just a 10 percent — five percent in Michigan of high school students, the top five percent of their high school students being able to have an opportunity to choose U of M as their school.”
University Spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said Wednesday the University continues to strive to increase minority enrollment on campus. Fitzgerald said he didn’t know whether any plan resembling the Texas ten percent plan is being considered.
“It’s not a simple process,” he said. “President Schlissel has made diversity of the student body a top priority; the staff in admissions certainly understand that, it’s been a priority for them and it takes a lot of hard work and we’re constantly looking at new approaches and new ways to go about that.”
BAMN’s other demands included creating scholarships for undocumented students and taking more steps to address sexism, sexual harassment and racism on campus. BAMN specifically pointed to racism against Muslim women on campus who cover their heads for religious reasons, saying there have been repeated instances of attacks against these women in particular.
Alvarenga and University alum Kate Stenvig, another BAMN organizer, shared their frustration with the University administrators for not making enough progress despite issues of diversity being present on campus for some time.
The most notable progress in recent months has been orchestrated by the Black Student Union, in response to their own list of demands presented last year. Through cooperative effort between the University and the BSU, the Trotter Multicultural Center was given significant money for renovations and the administration has also started a search for a new location for the center.
Despite these developments, Stenvig said she is still unsatisfied with the progress the administration is making.
“We need much more than just one building where minority students are able to be safe,” she said. “That’s ridiculous to me to think the administration points to that time and time again as this great accomplishment and it’s not good enough; it’s not really anything.”