Administrators and student gathered for a forum in Rackham Auditorium yesterday to discuss ways to increase underrepresented minority enrollment at the University.
The event, hosted by the Minority Affairs Commission, brought nearly 100 administrators and students together to discuss the trials and tribulations of increasing diversity in admissions at the University.
Since affirmative action was banned in the state following the adoption of Proposal 2 — a Michigan ballot initiative passed in 2006 that prohibited favorable treatment of minorities in college admissions —ensuring minority equality in universities has been a continued topic of discussion at schools across the nation.
LSA senior Kristina Felder, chair of the Minority Affairs Commission, said the organization decided to hold the meeting to foster discussion on University admissions policy between students and officials.
“I know that admission and retention of minority students is a concern of many students,” Felder said. “We wanted to give the students the opportunity to interact directly with the administrators who can make the changes on campus.”
Felder said that while she wishes more could be done to assist minorities gain admittance to schools in the state, she acknowledged that it will be challenging to make headway in altering the current law that bans affirmative action.
“I wish that more could be done about the admission and retention of minority students, but I also realize that as a public institution with tens of thousands of students, it is hard and illegal with the ban of affirmative action for the administration to make changes specifically for students of color.”
Seven administrators participated in the event, each giving short addresses on how their offices have been furthering the cause for minority student admission and recruitment.
Ted Spencer, associate vice provost and executive director of the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, commented on the drastic increase in applications for admission to the University and predicted that the University will receive about 45,000 applications this year, an increase from 39,570 last year.
“The quality of students continues to be better than the year before,” Spencer said. “The number of outreach programs to ensure opportunities for people who otherwise would not have an opportunity has also increased along with the applications.”
During the forum, students had the opportunity to voice their opinions and ask questions to the administrators about minority retention.
LSA sophomore Korbin Felder asked about the decline in the number of accepted African-American males over recent years.
“How can you explain this decline?” he inquired. “Is it because people are not applying or is it something else? Because (officials) are talking about all these programs you have, but the numbers show differently.”
Spencer responded that the trend in decreasing African-American male representation is occurring across the nation, and added that the number of males in general attending college is on the decline.
Another student asked about the lack of African-American faculty, claiming that she could count the number of African-American professors and graduate student instructors she has encountered on one hand.
In many of the cases brought up by students, administrators responded with possible solutions to the posed problems.
After the meeting, Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs, praised the gathering for facilitating dialogue on a complicated issue among the campus community.
“I think we need to do more to create these kinds of town hall meetings to listen to the students, but also to inform students about what is going on in these various programs on the campus,” Monts said. “I thought it was very informative, very organized and very beneficial to everyone involved.”
In an interview after the event, Central Student Government President DeAndree Watson said the event was overall a positive experience for students in attendance.
“I’m really glad that the students were able to participate and receive some very valuable information,” Watson said. “I think that it was extremely informative and I think that the administration was able to talk about a lot of the initiatives and projects that the University is doing to increase diversity.”
He added that it’s important for students to voice their perspectives on issues to administrators in an attempt to develop effective future policy.
“At the same time, it was really great that students were able to have their voices heard and were able to talk about some of the priorities that they want to see the University accept and work toward,” he said.