Diversity Blueprints Task Force issues report
In its final report to President Mary Sue Coleman March 15 the Diversity Blueprints Task Force made a number of short- and long-range recommendations for how the University can sustain and improve diversity, post-Proposal 2.
Among the hundreds of suggestions made by task force members, students, faculty, staff and the greater community: Establish a center to coordinate educational and community outreach and engagement activities and expand partnerships with K-12 schools; continue to support and develop holistic review processes for applicants that measure student potential; explore new ways to simplify and bolster the complex terrain of financial aid and provide additional resources to individuals, schools, and communities that make the goal of a Michigan education more possible; and make intercultural skills and diverse encounters part of the work and learning environment for everyone at U-M.
The report is available online at www.vpcomm.umich.edu/diversityresources/db-summary.html. It was presented to the Board of Regents March 15 and will be highlighted again at a public meeting 10-11 a.m. March 28 at Forum Hall in Palmer Commons.
The Task Force was created by Coleman to identify innovative strategies to sustain and improve effectiveness in recruiting, retaining, and supporting a diverse student body, faculty and staff, and to enhance the University’s educational outreach and engagement.
“I am impressed with the way our community answered the call to action,” Coleman says. “We asked people to tap into their ideas, their information and their creativity, and they responded with their full participation.
“This report presents us with some immediate actions, and a process for moving forward. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us, and our leadership team will be fully engaged in this work.”
Regent Chair Olivia Maynard also praised the work of the task force, saying the Diversity Blueprints plan is “central to our mission,” and stressing that none of the suggestions represent a “quick fix.”
Regents Julia Donovan Darlow and Andrew Richner also commended the task force and said they look forward to seeing the plans take shape.
The 55-member Diversity Blueprints Task Force, made up of faculty, staff, administrators, students and alumni, began its work in December 2006. The report provides a synthesis of innumerable hours of discussion and debate; input received at a four-session forum series; the work of five full task force meetings and more than 35 hours of subcommittee meetings; two days of consultation with key administrators from other states impacted by legal constraints similar to Michigan’s Proposal 2; consultations with area school superintendents; more than 400 e-mail comments and suggestions; and numerous meetings, workshops, and written reports compiled by a variety of campus constituents.
“The amount of work invested by task force members was extraordinary,” says Provost Teresa Sullivan, who co-chaired the group with Senior Vice Provost Lester Monts.
“This report is a summary of major recommendations and themes, and immediate steps that can be taken. Accountability will be an important aspect of this process. Our task force has articulated the need to set goals and measure progress against those goals,” Sullivan says.
Other underlying principles and specific recommendations include:
• Developing additional strategies to help Michigan youth envision themselves as U-M students and to help Michigan parents guide their children toward this possibility;
• Enhancing the links between faculty scholarship and research and the public good;
• Increasing the role of alumni in maintaining Michigan’s commitment to diversity;
• Identifying ways to strengthen Michigan’s image and impact with a broad range of constituents; and
• Addressing overall campus climate, as the general spirit of the campus and the sense of belonging experienced by each individual was an underlying theme throughout the work of all task force subcommittees.
Other major findings stress the importance of accountability at all levels and the ongoing nature of the work ahead. The report suggests that diversity efforts be transparent, and that leaders work to ensure campuswide buy-in and engagement. The University is encouraged to dismantle structural impediments to diversity and increase support for faculty, staff and students working on diversity-related issues. Accountability within units must be increased, budgets must be tied to outcomes, and review and reward structures must reflect these shared institutional priorities, the report states.
“We believe that every part of the University should be engaged in diversity,” Sullivan says. “We anticipate that a wide range of groups and individuals will be involved in the implementation, including Student Affairs, Human Resources, the Health System, the deans, faculty leaders and SACUA, student organizations, staff organizations such as Voices of the Staff, the Alumni Association, and organizations such as the Diversity Council that represent a variety of constituencies.”
Implementation will be directed by the provost and other executive officers and progress will be assessed at the 2007 Fall Diversity Summit.
“The University of Michigan is seen as a leader in advancing diversity in higher education,” Monts says. “The world is watching to see how we will respond to the challenges posed by Proposal 2. We have the benefit of learning from universities in those states who have experienced the loss of affirmative action. Our actions will be informed by their successes and failures.”
“This report lays out some very ambitious goals,” Monts says. “We should not be satisfied just with maintaining diversity of numbers, but instead should aim for real gains in fostering a campus environment that supports the success of all our faculty, staff and students. The recommendations of this task force will require sustained attention over a period of months and even years in order to realize our goals.”