Among the many casualties of last year’s passage of Proposal 2 was the University’s reputation as a welcoming place for people of all backgrounds. In response to Michigan’s voter-mandated prohibition on race- and gender-based affirmative action, the University commissioned the Diversity Blueprints Taskforce to outline ways to maintain diversity on campus. Sadly, a recent Daily investigation has shown that the one tried and true way of projecting the University’s positive image, recruitment, has slackened this year at many Detroit high schools. This stacks the odds even more against the University in its quest to maintain and enhance underrepresented minority enrollment numbers despite Proposal 2.
Only about an hour down the road from Ann Arbor, Detroit is an important pool from which the University seeks to find underrepresented minority students. Detroit’s population is about 82 percent black, according to the latest Census Bureau statistics, and this racial character is represented in the city’s schools. The University has emphasized the importance of recruiting at Detroit high schools because it allows the institution to reach out to top candidates from diverse backgrounds.
The city’s 29 high schools will graduate many well-qualified prospective applicants, but recruiters must be more present in order to personify the University’s openness and be a resource to students who might otherwise just apply to other colleges. However, 10 of the 17 public schools reached for comment said that they have seen University recruiters less frequently this year than in the past. Even Cass Technical High School, which regularly sends around 40 underrepresented minority students to the University every year, has seen fewer recruiters than in years past.
With the University singled out in court and in the media in recent challenges to affirmative action, something must be done to dispel the building misconception that the University does not welcome diversity. The University could fight this misconception by redoubling its recruitment efforts to ensure that its representatives speak personally to as many students as possible. Instead, it seems the University’s presence in Detroit schools has decreased rather than increased.
The University has discussed innovative responses to last November’s disastrous ballot initiative, outlining the various tactics to encourage a diverse campus. Ideally, the University would implement an unprecedented recruitment program that would send representatives to middle and elementary schools. But this is just an extension of the vital high school recruitment efforts, which cannot be deemphasized as we seek new, innovative ways to reach the same goal.
Currently, the University employs four recruiters for Detroit high schools. Oddly enough, these recruiters do not represent the University’s Dearborn and Flint campuses, each of which have their own representatives. Pooling the recruitment efforts of all three campuses might be an ideal way to increase the presence of the University in Detroit high schools. Different campuses of the University don’t need to compete with each other: The point is to get students into any one of those campuses to serve the larger goal of institutional diversity.