LSA Dean Andrew Martin addressed issues on students’ minds Tuesday night in an open forum at the University of Michigan Museum of Art. Topics ranged from evaluating class requirements to a perceived lack of diversity and gaps in socioeconomic status on campus and within LSA.

Martin, who began his term as dean over the summer, posed questions from students and said he hoped to get a sense of the experience students have had on campus thus far, as well as an understanding of what areas could be better addressed by the college.

“I’d like us to be the liberal arts college that has the absolute best and most rigorous programs, that helps students do research often and early and be the college that has the best team in the country to support students transition out of the liberal arts education into wherever they want to go,” Martin said.

The audience included a handful of students whose majors were in natural sciences, social sciences and humanities, and students from each field expressed a need for more and better research opportunities. They discussed a lack of such opportunities for students not qualifying for the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program and similar programs that target newer students, as well as a lack of opportunities for students majoring in the humanities.

“I think one of the things that we’ve done historically well through a variety of programs is getting students involved in faculty research early and often,” Martin said. “It’s a tough problem, and it’s not a problem that is ever going to be solvable because it is sort of the nature of the humanities. In the humanities, there are lots of scholarships that are given individually. It doesn’t have the same organizational structure that we would see in other disciplines.”

Martin recommended the LSA internship program to students searching for new opportunities beyond classes setting a goal of placing 1,000 students in internships next year, a significant increase from this year’s 400 students. Students also asked about specific LSA requirements and how the school can help students beyond their time at the University in determining and succeeding in their chosen field.

“We need to market what we have that is available to students and make it clear that we are here to help in any way that we can,” Martin said. “One of my big priorities during the first term of my deanship is to take all of those programs and consolidate them into one single entity, and then bring it up to a scale that can fully support the breadth of our student body.”

While some students offered opinions in favor of the Race and Ethnicity requirement currently in place in LSA, Martin and other students questioned the need for such a requirement, or at the very least, the need for Race and Ethnicity courses to be more concise and focused on current social justice issues that would be more applicable today and to current racial and social climates on campus.

One student, LSA sophomore Karina Sanchez, who attended the talk, said she feels disappointed with the racial climate on campus and with the way the University is handling racial and socioeconomic disparities.

“One of the main reasons I transferred here was for your reputation, including your reputation as a diverse University,” Sanchez said at the forum. “As a Hispanic, it is important for me to see people like myself on campus. It has been very hard for me to find my place on campus,” Sanchez said. “This school is very segregated. I feel like I’ve traveled back in time, everything is so segregated. We need to have a community aspect where I can look at anyone in this room and feel connected to them.”

While Martin said his position is not involved in admissions, something he and students pinpointed major contributor to diversity on campus, he said working toward inclusive communities within classrooms has been and will continue to be a goal of LSA.

“This campus is getting more homogeneous over time, and that’s not a good thing,” he said. “Diversity and accessibility are something that I am talking about all of the time, pushing the college to do better. The place where this college looked most closely last semester was in the classroom, because that is what we control.”

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