1. Our World Needs Our Differences

    January 25, 2016

    The University of Michigan is helping to lead the national conversation on the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education as we continue strategic planning efforts at our university.

    As part of our ongoing efforts to provoke dialog on diversity, U-M’s National Center for Institutional Diversity (NCID), in partnership with the American Council on Education (ACE), is convening higher education leaders and top faculty members this Thursday to examine “The Role of Research in Advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Higher Education.”

    Promoting diversity in all its forms and enhancing the inclusiveness of our campus communities are amongst the biggest challenges facing public research universities.

    Racial strife on college campuses has exposed wounds and inspired students to protest. A Huffington Post/YouGov poll published earlier this month showed that 41 percent of respondents do not think colleges have a responsibility to teach students about issues relating to racism. And the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing another case about the use of race in higher education admissions.

    In invitational sessions throughout the day, participants will discuss ways to help colleges and universities better use research to make the case for diversity. Discussions will include how to align policies, practices and discourse so we can better defend our essential commitment to diversity, because as the Fisher case demonstrates, there will always be another legal hurdle to navigate.

    I invite everyone to join me at the convening’s public panel discussion, “Facing the Challenge: The Continued Commitment to Diversity in Higher Education” from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28, at Rackham Amphitheater.

    The panel will be moderated by Louis Soares, vice president for policy research and strategy and head of ACE’s Center for Policy Analysis. The panelists are: President Emerita Nancy “Rusty” Barceló of Northern New Mexico College; Chancellor Nancy Cantor of Rutgers University-Newark; Senior Director of Diversity, Policy and Programs Laura Castillo-Page of the Association of American Medical Colleges; Managing Partner and Co-Founder Art Coleman of EducationCounsel; Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Kedra B. Ishop of the University of Michigan; and Associate Professor Julie J. Park of the University of Maryland.

    The NCID was established in 2005, following the U-M’s defense of its admission policies in landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases. It has built national partnerships and supported the scholarship of diversity.

    Advancing scholarship that examines many perspectives on diversity will better position us to respond to what is at stake nationwide. I am convinced that great research will be invaluable as we take on the challenges ahead.

    More information and an RSVP link for the panel are available at the NCID website.


    U-M Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Update

    I want to thank everyone from the University of Michigan community who came together to celebrate the life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. last Monday in Hill Auditorium.

    It was a day of powerful voices. In a beautiful and captivating performance, the U-M Men’s Glee Club captured the enormous emotion of the 2016 MLK Symposium theme, #WhoWillBeNext. Social justice activist and educator Nontombi Naomi Tutu delivered the keynote address and reminded us that we all have the ability to contribute to meaningful change. In my own introductory comments, I spoke about the progress we’ve been making on our own campus even while the strategic planning process is still in process.

    A complete video of the morning’s events is available online as well. I invite you to attend the remaining Symposium events.

    I hope we can be inspired by Tutu’s words and ideas as we continue to engage in our important work to improve diversity, equity and inclusion at U-M. We are a strong community of students, faculty and staff, and every voice and perspective is important.

    As Tutu said, “We are not all the same. … I am one who believes that we are different for a purpose, that our world needs our differences.”

    From our many different voices and perspectives, we are making great progress.

    I was pleased to meet last Tuesday with the individuals who are coordinating the development of strategic plans for diversity, equity and inclusion in our schools, colleges and units. The planning leads are a tremendously committed group who care very deeply about our university. They are continuing to reach out to the campus community to draft customized strategic plans that will inform the university’s overall plan.

    This is a journey we are taking together. We are moving forward with purpose, while also committing to plans that will evolve as we continue to listen, engage, assess progress and seek creative strategies.

    This month’s student town halls were very successful, drawing a broad representation of students. We heard many points of view. The results of the crowd-sourcing activities at the town halls will be shared with our planning leaders, and we are planning follow-up sessions to delve more deeply into suggestions made by students.

    The amazing dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion across the breadth of our community is one of our greatest strengths. This is why we have taken a broad, decentralized approach to our diversity strategic planning. It’s this breadth that gives us the best opportunity to produce a culture of change. There is no shortage of determination for meaningful change at U-M.

    The ideas I heard so far reinforce my belief that our work can be transformative, not just at U-M, but also for our nation.

    I hope to see you at the NCID-ACE panel discussion this Thursday, and I thank everyone who is helping us enhance diversity, equity and inclusion at the University of Michigan.