1. Many voices heard at U-M Diversity Summit

    November 13, 2015

    Note: This post was updated at 1:04 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21.

    I want to share the remarks that I made during Thursday’s meeting of the Board of Regents of the University of Michigan expressing my grief and empathy for everyone affected by the terror attacks in Baghdad, Beirut, Paris and other cities around the world.

    Regent Shauna Ryder Diggs extended condolences on behalf of the board. Information on U-M’s support for students is available in a letter from Vice President for Student Life E. Royster Harper and Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones. Ann Arbor campus faculty and staff may access support through the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program, and those in the health system can access the Employee Assistance Program.

    At the meeting, we also addressed the sentiments of some of members of our community who shared aspects of their experiences at the university that were not positive. These painful experiences were discussed during our Diversity Summit, and in the days since, we have heard from students, faculty and staff who have faced hateful messages in the aftermath of the terror attacks.

    Discrimination and threats to safety have no place on our campus. I urge anyone to immediately report any instance of this so that we may investigate promptly.

    On Friday, the Diversity Working Group involved in our strategic planning to improve diversity, equity and inclusion discussed the negative experiences shared by members of our community, including hateful racial, ethnic and religious messages directed at people following the terror attacks.

    The group shares my deep concern that U-M is not as safe and welcoming for all its community members as it should be. We invite you to engage in our work. Your voices and ideas are important. You can email us at diversitymatters@umich.edu or contact one of the planning leads listed on our diversity website.

    I urge everyone at U-M to be supportive of one another and to come together as one community. We must confront these issues together, free of discrimination and with a level of respect that everyone deserves. I ask that we all help to uphold the aspirations expressed Thursday by Regent Diggs: “At the U-M, everyone belongs. Everyone here — students, faculty and staff — deserve to be respected and to have a voice. Our concept of inclusion spans heritage, ableness, diversity of thought, race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and nationality.”



    As part of the process of developing our campus strategic plan to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion, the university hosted a Diversity Summit this past week. The voices we heard included those of University of Michigan students, faculty and staff, as well as national leaders in health and higher education.

    I thank all members of our community who participated in the summit along with all of those who have been engaged with us since we began our strategic planning process. I especially appreciated the opportunity to hear directly from many of you during the Community Assembly and Student Town Hall.

    At both of those events and others throughout the summit, we heard two very clear messages. The first is that our community is deeply engaged in this important work. Many of the events were at full capacity, including about 1,200 at the Community Assembly, and members of our community provided valuable input that will help us in the diversity strategic planning process.

    I know that the panel of presidents and chancellors from institutions that serve under-represented minorities nearly filled the Rackham Assembly Hall on Wednesday. And the staff dialogues on diversity, equity and inclusion were very well-attended in the League on Thursday, including extra sessions added due to strong interest.

    We heard good ideas that will be considered as part of our plans, as well as thoughtful input on the process itself.

    The second message we heard came from members of our community who discussed experiences that were not positive – and that too often were painful.

    These experiences were courageously shared by students, faculty and staff who feel like they don’t have an equal opportunity to succeed, or are even at risk in our community, because of who they are.

    And they spoke up at a time when the entire nation was learning of racial strife on other campuses including the University of Missouri and Yale University.

    We cannot reach our full potential as a university when there are many among us who are experiencing our community this negatively. We must do better, and we will. Racism and discrimination have no place on our college campuses.

    Ensuring that U-M is an environment free of discrimination is one of the most important goals of this process we have undertaken.

    I thank all of those who shared their stories and ideas. You gave voice to many of the issues we must confront in our plans, and your contributions will make our university stronger and more equitable.

    I want to assure everyone that our commitment to listening and collaboration will be a continuous one, throughout the strategic planning process and beyond.

    As I said during the Community Assembly, a plan that is created in a vacuum from the President’s Office will not serve to rally the community around a set of shared values and goals and cannot succeed. We all have to share in developing this plan and contributing to its success. Our diversity website provides more information about our work and offers further opportunities to engage.

    Thank you for your commitment to making U-M a better place for all.