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From: Katherine Mangan
Subject: Race on Campus: What we learned about one of higher education’s most ambitious DEI efforts
Welcome to Race on Campus. In the past few months, The Chronicle has been closely watching the campuses where state lawmakers have been hammering away at diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. But one of the nation’s most extensive (and expensive) DEI programs has remained untouched. I went to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor to learn what DEI has and hasn’t accomplished there so far and why the university is doubling down on its diversity commitment. If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll read
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Welcome to Race on Campus. In the past few months, The Chronicle has been closely watching the campuses where state lawmakers have been hammering away at diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. But one of the nation’s most extensive (and expensive) DEI programs has remained untouched. I went to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor to learn what DEI has and hasn’t accomplished there so far and why the university is doubling down on its diversity commitment. If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll read my story.
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3 things we learned examining one of the most ambitious diversity efforts
The University of Michigan’s DEI infrastructure is huge
The Ann Arbor campus, with more than 50,000 students, is highly decentralized, and so is its approach to tackling diversity challenges. Fifty colleges or units each have a DEI lead — usually someone who’s already on staff who became the point person for diversity. Combined, these units came up with 2,800 action plans for making the campus more diverse. A central DEI office oversees those efforts, and it added 37 universitywide strategies to the list.
The university committed $85 million to the initial phase of its DEI plan, which ran from 2016 to 2021. After a one-year review, this fall, it’ll begin a second five-year phase with a price tag yet to be determined. The focus will be on fewer, consolidated projects that have shown promising results.
The university says it has had to work extra hard to recruit underrepresented minority students because of a 2006 state law that prohibits it from considering race in admissions decisions.
Bloated bureaucracy or best practice? Critics and supporters point to the sheer scope of Michigan’s efforts in making their case.
Black and Native American students remain woefully underrepresented among undergrads
One of the biggest disappointments of the plan so far is that it’s barely moved the needle on the number of Black undergraduates, while Native Americans, who already made up a minuscule portion of the population, declined. Last year, Black students made up 3.9 percent of Ann Arbor’s undergraduates, in a state where 14 percent of residents are Black. Native Americans dropped by 18 percent, to just 0.1 percent of undergrads.
Black students say they’re tired of waiting for the numbers to tick up to what they’d consider anywhere near a critical mass of students. Without that, they say, they feel isolated and often expected — as the only Black person in a class — to be a spokesperson for their race. Two Black student leaders told me they were pleased the university invited them to serve on DEI committees, but that the work, on top of academics and advocacy, can be exhausting.
An aggressive outreach to underfunded public schools is showing signs of progress
One of the more ambitious, and so far successful, programs is called Wolverine Pathways. It helps prepare students, starting in seventh grade, to be competitive applicants to the highly selective university. Year-round academic and social supports are offered to students, families, and schools in Detroit, Ypsilanti, Grand Rapids, and Southfield. About one in five of Ann Arbor’s entering Black in-state students graduated from the program. But given inequities in school funding and other challenges these districts face, significant progress can take years to realize, and there’s no guarantee that home-grown high-school graduates won’t be recruited away by another college.
- Here’s how enrollment changed in states that banned affirmative action. (The Chronicle)
- A last look at key questions that could shape the Supreme Court’s affirmative-action decision. (The Chronicle)
- The debate over affirmative action has long tapped into American resentments and anxieties. (Vox)
- Most Americans say colleges shouldn’t factor race into admissions decisions, a new CBS New poll finds.
- Critics of a bill under consideration in Ohio fear that it would require professors to teach about slavery “from both sides.” (Ohio Capital Journal)
- A graduate student at the College of Charleston discovered an ad for a slave auction larger than any historian had yet identified (ProPublica)
- Many vulnerable students face double discrimination: first, in how much they’re required to borrow and pay for college, and second, in how little money the colleges they attend receive, a policy brief from New America finds.