Coleman offers solutions to student concerns
In a letter to students, President Mary Sue Coleman has outlined a number of efforts to answer some of the concerns raised in recent weeks by student leaders.
Coleman, Provost Paul N. Courant and Vice President for Student Affairs E. Royster Harper met with student body representatives March 29 but could not fully outline plans at that time because the meeting did not provide meaningful dialogue, the president said.
"I am not interested in responding to a set of demands where no real discussion can take place," Coleman wrote in March 31 letter. "I believe that progress from issues can only come from dialogue.
"It is not possible for the administration to always be in one hundred percent agreement with students on every issue," Coleman wrote. "We will certainly have some differences of opinion along the way. But when we do, I am prepared to share the principles and facts that have guided our final decisions."
Some issues addressed in the letter include, the reorganization of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC); the deterioration of Trotter House, which houses the office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs (MESA); campus response to hate crimes; and budget and program issues involving the Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs, the Pow Wow and the hiring of a Latino coordinator.
Specific plans Coleman outlined include:
• Establishment of a standing student advisory committee to encourage additional input on University issues that impact students. The advisory group will include representatives from student organizations;
• Re-establishment of the annual provost's discussion on budget convened by the Michigan Student Assembly (MSA) to discuss the budget-setting and prioritization process. Courant will ask MSA to host a discussion this month and annually thereafter;
• Appointment of a Trotter House project planning team of student representatives, facilities experts and staff to recommend possible options for the facility. Patricia Aqui Pacania, director of MESA, will lead the effort. Plans will be shared with the campus community in the fall. The Office of Development will provide guidance regarding fundraising goals;
• Posting of the Latino coordinator position, which will occur within two weeks;
• Charging the Campus Safety and Security Advisory Committee to consider ways to address hate incidents, including exploring creation of a comprehensive reporting mechanism and planning strategies for increasing awareness of the issue;
• Acting on recommendations from a report, to be issued this month, from the Transgender, Bisexual, Lesbian and Gay Task Force.
Coleman's letter also makes commitments to discuss issues involving the Greek system and student recruitment. The president stood by recent decisions to restructure SAPAC but said Harper is willing to continue the dialogue about how to move forward "in a way that is responsive to student needs, especially the need for safe space."
"My goal, and I trust it is a shared goal, is to make the best decisions we can for the students who are here now and for those to come," Coleman said.