With the passage of Proposal 2 in November, the campus community was left with one question: now what?
A new group composed of some of the biggest names in student leadership wants to find an answer.
The Affirmative Action Study Group, started by Michigan Student Assembly representative Kenneth Baker and former LSA Student Government President Andrew Yahkind, is a bipartisan group composed of 10 student leaders active on both sides of the Proposal 2 debate. The group will examine diversity issues on campus and make recommendations to the University administration on what actions to take.
The study group’s members include MSA representatives Art Reyes, Eric Li and Tony Saunders, MSA President Nicole Stallings, former Student Conservative Party MSA vice presidential candidate Tommi Turner; and Michigan Review Managing Editor Adam Paul.
The new group is similar to the University’s Diversity Blueprints Task Force, which is composed of faculty, staff, alumni and students. University President Mary Sue Coleman established Diversity Blueprints following Proposal 2’s passage in November. The University’s task force will make recommendations to Coleman in February on how to sustain and improve diversity on campus.
Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs and Diversity Blueprints co-chair, said he supports the student-led group, despite it having similar goals to Diversity Blueprints.
“I don’t believe any campus group should claim sole ownership of the diversity debate,” he said in an e-mail interview. “I will observe with great interest the work of this bipartisan group. I congratulate MSA and LSA-SG for their sponsorship.”
Baker said two factors separate his group from Diversity Blueprints: it is composed entirely of students and it is more ideologically balanced.
“The University has taken a stance,” he said. “Because we have a campus community who agree with the University and some who don’t, it’s important both sides have a voice in how to proceed.”
Yahkind, who also acts as an unofficial spokesman for the senior honor society formerly known as Michigamua, said he respects Diversity Blueprints but wanted to start the group to provide an entirely student perspective.
Despite the differing viewpoints of its members, Baker said the study group will create recommendations for the University.
“I think the group we put together is looking toward a compromise,” he said. “I expect that we will be able to make recommendations to garner support from all the participants.”
Yahkind said diversity is important to all members of the study group and stressed the importance of its bipartisanship.
“Having these conversations can have some unique results we don’t often see, instead of just yelling at each other in the Diag,” he said.
The group’s recommendations may come as early as April, but if necessary, Baker said the group may continue its work into the fall semester.
On Wednesday night, the group held its first public meeting. Members discussed tentative areas to focus on such as campus climate, the University’s role in K-12 education, recruitment and institutional issues like housing and financial aid. Members also discussed which University administrators to meet with and future public meeting topics.
There was no audience at the meeting. Baker said because it was the first meeting, getting people together was more of a priority than publicity. Although membership is limited to the 10 student leaders chosen by Baker, he plans to have both private and public meetings to allow for campus input. He said the group will hold a student forum soon to introduce itself to campus.