To all members of the campus community,
The University of Michigan remains steadfast in its commitment to fostering a diverse educational environment for our students and scholars, which is essential to our core mission of academic excellence. Today as university leaders, we recommit ourselves to this value.
Although the U-M is not directly affected by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to significantly narrow how race can be considered in admissions policies, we are deeply disheartened by the court’s ruling.
We remain firmly convinced that racial diversity is one of the many important components of a broadly diverse student body and an intellectually and culturally rich campus community. We believe racial diversity benefits the exchange and development of ideas by increasing students’ variety of perspectives, promoting cross-racial understanding and dispelling racial stereotypes. It helps prepare students to be leaders in a global marketplace and increasingly multicultural society. This belief is supported by a robust body of social science and educational research evidence.
During the Grutter (2003) case, U-M fought to consider race in a narrowly tailored manner that is attentive to the distinctive characteristics of individual applicants. Despite this victory, the state of Michigan passed in 2006 a constitutional amendment, Proposal 2, restricting public universities from considering race in admissions decisions. As a result, U-M has been operating for the past 17 years without considering race in its admissions policies.
The ruling will not change our values or efforts to become a more diverse university community.
U-M’s experiences with Proposal 2 can be instructive to other institutions of higher education. In continued efforts to cultivate and support a diverse student body, the university made significant commitments to practices, policies and procedures focused on race-neutral factors. These considerable efforts—buoyed by a large, campuswide diversity, equity, and inclusion strategic plan initiative — have resulted in noteworthy diversity strides in the representation of more socio-economically disadvantaged students and of some racial/ethnic communities.
At the same time, U-M’s experiences demonstrate what research has now shown clearly — that it is much more difficult to achieve racial diversity in the student body using only race-neutral methods than by including race in the admissions process in a narrowly-tailored manner. Proposal 2 had disproportionate, negative impacts on the most underrepresented communities; race-neutral policies have been much less successful in significantly increasing enrollments of Black and Native American students.
In the face of these challenges, we persist. We strive to create and support an educational community of diverse voices with a range of experiences. U-M’s experiences with Proposal 2 have taught us that achieving a more diverse student body in an unequal K-12 education system—racially, socioeconomically, among other areas—requires dedicating significant attention and effort to developing legally-permissible policies, practices, procedures and programs.
U-M’s recent diversity, equity and inclusion strategic plan, DEI 1.0, is an example of an institution-wide effort that resulted in significant progress, and successful and promising models for enhancing diversity. We also saw areas where we made less progress, and lessons learned about where we need to focus more. As we build on our progress and learning in our next strategic plan, DEI 2.0, we will continue to leverage innovative strategies with the greatest promise for achieving increased and abundant representation of the communities that make up our state, nation and global society.
We still wholeheartedly believe our dedication to academic excellence for the public good is inseparable from our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
We know we have much more work to do to live up to our ideals of a broadly diverse learning community. The court’s decision makes this work more urgent than ever.
By doing this work, U-M has an opportunity once again to serve higher education more broadly, through sharing our lessons learned on how to achieve a more racially and otherwise diverse student body within the legal parameters newly announced by the court.
Once again, we have an opportunity to live up to our goals of being leaders and best.
Santa J. Ono
Laurie K. McCauley
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs