DETROIT — With only two weeks remaining until admissions applications are due, University President Mary Sue Coleman reached out to the young black community in Detroit on Sunday in an effort to increase the number of minority applications to the University.
Wolverine Day, an event held to encourage minority students to apply to the University, was held at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church one day before the University’s celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Speakers included Coleman and Sandra Bulger, a University alum and attorney for the General Motors Corporation.
The event gave high school juniors and seniors an opportunity to explore the different options for academic study at the University. Admissions officers, professors and students from the University spoke to high school students about the positive attributes of the University. Every academic college was represented at the event, as well as programs such as the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program and Telluride House, a cooperative residential learning community.
Sunday’s Wolverine Day was the last in a series of minority outreach events in which Coleman sought out minority students and talked to them about the merits of applying to the University.
During the last academic year, the University had 25 percent fewer black applicants than in the previous year. While some accusations were made about the University’s new application alienating minority students, the University has maintained that similar minority application patterns were seen at other universities like Northwestern University and Ohio State University.
David Middleton, a junior at Detroit Country Day School, said he was definitely going to apply to the University, but that he could understand why other minorities would not.
“The way people see African Americans as getting into the school just because of their skin color and not because of their abilities would make some people not apply,” he said.
Coleman spoke about the importance of diversity within the academic community.
“Diversity, in all its forms, is a crucial, central ethic at the University of Michigan,” she said.
“University students learn almost as much from each other as they do from their professors,” she added.
Coleman also spoke out against the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, a campaign aiming to end race conscious admission policies in the state.
“I believe it is a clear attempt to role back civil rights gained in the past,” she said.
Ashley Perry, a junior from Martin Luther King High School, said most of her friends are thinking of applying to the University, but added that she could understand that some minorities would want to attend southern schools because of the perception of a more positive atmosphere for blacks.
Sekou Watkins, a junior from Renaissance High School, agreed.
“I think minorities are more interested in historically black colleges — they feel more comfortable with more African Americans,” he said.
Duane Miller, a senior at Renaissance High School said he has applied to the University, but has not yet heard from the admissions office. Miller said about half of his friends have also applied to the University. He said he hadn’t noticed fewer people applying, but said he thought the decline could be a result of the University’s admissions lawsuit.
“Even the discussion of getting rid of (affirmative action) is offensive to some,” he said.
Admissions officers also held one-on-one consultations with the high school students on helpful changes to their applications.
Coleman left the students with a word of advice.
“Keep your eye on the ball and work through road blocks in your path. Do not be defined by your circumstances but instead define them,” she said.
Steven Kemp and Jackie Lewis-Kemp’s son is a student at Detroit Country Day School. They both expressed excitement about the opportunities available at the University.
“This effort is phenomenal. For the president to come and recruit these students will be very helpful,” Lewis-Kemp said.
Coordinator of Executive Communications Deborah Meyers Greene said the University will be releasing the number of minority applications that were submitted this year on Wednesday.