Together We Are Capable of Remarkable Change

Sam Mousigian

By Rob Sellers

This is an exciting time for the University of Michigan. On Oct. 6, following a year-long planning process, we launched our five-year strategic plan for diversity, equity and inclusion. With the announcement of the plan, we signified our renewed pledge for creating an inclusive and equitable campus and developing a diverse university community.

Throughout this process, the University has been actively engaged with faculty, staff and students where open dialogue has allowed us to plan for the future while learning from our past. This has been vital to the process, especially now as we implement this plan.

Our commitment includes $85 million in new funding to support these efforts over the next five years in addition to the $40 million currently spent annually on DEI initiatives.

We have and continue to hear from many voices, both groups and individuals. The result of these conversations has paved the way for numerous new or reinvented programs and initiatives, examples of which include Wolverine Pathways, HAIL Scholars, LGBTQ Allyhood Development Trainings and a Ford School of Public Policy workshop series that will address political sensitivity and tolerance for other political views, among other facets of diversity. These DEI efforts, and so many others, are enriched through the determination of remarkable faculty, staff and students across this great institution.

Despite these efforts to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive climate, our university community also has also faced messages of racial, ethnic and religious discrimination.

While we recognize the damage and hurt these messages can cause our community, we will not amplify the negative effects by specifically responding to each and every affront. For those in need, we will continue to provide front-line assistance, utilizing services such as the Bias Response Team, Counseling and Psychological Services and other support systems.

As stated previously by University President Mark Schlissel, the ideology advocated in these messages does not reflect our core values at the University. In many instances, these individuals aim to disrupt our educational mission by gaining greater attention and publicity for their extreme ideologies. By diminishing the attention these individuals seek, we reinforce our unwavering commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion at the University.

As a way to combat these negative messages, we encourage demonstrations of support — including proactive community-building experiences, which contest and transform these attacks against the values of our university community.

In support of this transformation, student, faculty and staff groups have been actively engaged in movements of solidarity to confront and debunk the ideologies espoused in these messages, like the “Spread Ideas, Not Hate” effort across campus, which is part of the Expect Respect program within Student Life.

By being responsive, rather than reactive, we are able to change and transform the culture surrounding these negative ideas and come together as a community to support one another.

While messages of hate occur throughout our country, the determination and efforts of faculty, staff and students at the University continue to serve as an invaluable tool to our community and set a greater standard for those in higher education across our nation.

I am extraordinarily proud of these efforts, our strategic plan and our determination to make our university community a more diverse, equitable and inclusive environment.

While at times we may be tempted, we must not grant others the power to derail our educational goals as a community or as individuals. Ultimately, the power belongs to us, and together, we are capable of remarkable change.

This article appeared in the November 3, 2016 edition of the Michigan Daily.

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