The University Record, May 21, 1996

Allen-Meares: U must address climate for women, students of color

Social Work Dean Paula Allen-Meares addressed an audience gathered to celebrate 15 years of the Women of Color Task Force on May 7.

Photos by Bob Kalmbach

By Rebecca A. Doyle

The University of Michigan has made great strides, but must address the institutional climate regarding women and students of color, Dean of the School of Social Work Paula Allen-Meares told an audience gathered to celebrate 15 years of the Women of Color Task Force at the U-M.

"The consequence of inviting women and students of color to embrace the institution is that we must address the climate of that institution," Allen-Meares told the assembled women at her keynote address.

Allen-Meares cited recent events on campus as being racially motivated and unsettling to the campus community of people of color, and challenged those in the audience to think "what we can do to change that climate."

"We need to tackle the quality of life on campus," Allen-Meares said. "This is a hostile, indifferent, intolerant environment, and there is no sense in increasing the number s (of women and people of color) if this is what they meet here."

During the 1960s, she noted, there was a moral commitment that is not present today, a commitment to "what we ought to do." The task force, people of color and women need to "speak out on their own personal experiences or continue to be disempowered," she said.

She recommended that the campus community look at the assumptions underlying the structure and to make known their perspective, which is not always heard.

Allen-Meares also cautioned the audience that they needed to take time to take care of themselves, and said that she did not have the answers to all the questions she raised.

"What can we do to change the climate at the University of Michigan?" she asked. "I invite your thoughts." Allen -Meares encouraged all in the audience to think about how to change the campus climate and to continue a dialogue between themselves and the administration about the issue.