In a laudable effort to bring minority enrollment numbers out of the hole, University President Mary Sue Coleman recently paid a visit to Hartford Memorial Baptist Church to participate in Wolverine Day — an outreach event intended to encourage minorities to apply to the University. Coleman is to be commended for her efforts and activism in attempting to solve the minority enrollment problem that was brought to light earlier this fall. If the University wants to preserve the diverse academic community that has remained so critical to its vitality, it should continue to pursue similar minority recruitment and retention efforts.
The 25 percent decrease in black applicants during the previous academic year has galvanized the administration to reach out to surrounding minority communities. These outreach programs and efforts on the part of Coleman and other administrators, alumni and surrounding high schools must persist in order to ensure the University remains the pillar of educational diversity it professes to be. In the wake of a widely publicized affirmative action victory, now is not the time for minority enrollment to drop. Though one would assume the publicity of the affirmative action case would encourage minority students to apply to the University, the post-victory trends have signaled otherwise.
While a similar pattern has been recognized on a national scale, numerous local-level explanations for this decline have been put forward. For one, the more intricate and writing-intensive application instituted last year has been alleged to deter potential minority applicants. It has also been speculated that groups like the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative and others protesting affirmative action have projected an unwelcoming atmosphere for prospective minority students.
While it is admirable that the University has taken such a strong stance in favor of affirmative action, political advocacy is obviously not enough to ensure consistent minority enrollment. The University must continue these outreach and recruitment efforts throughout the upcoming years to stabilize enrollment for the future.
The University also has an obligation to these students once they are accepted and enrolled. Recruitment and affirmative action help attract minorities to the University, but alone are not enough to improve the graduation rate of minority students. Coleman must focus her efforts on not only getting students to apply, but also making certain the academic is environment is favorable to them staying and succeeding at the University.
Last year’s dip in minority applicants, while unfortunate, is an opportunity for the administration to show its deep concern for diversity in enrollment. It is an important chance for Coleman to act on her commitment to diversity, and thus far it appears that she is willing to do so. The University must continue to make diversity a high priority, despite these setbacks in the last academic year.
Although specific numbers have not been released, it appears as if the University’s strategies have seen some success, as there has been an increase in minority applicants during the current academic year.
Coleman must be applauded for personally involving herself in this process — her efforts were undoubtedly crucial in raising the number of minority applicants this year. The continuation of these outreach efforts, in combination with the University’s steadfast position on affirmative action and its commitment to enrolled students, promises to improve minority enrollment and move society farther down the path towards racial equity in higher education.