To the University Community,
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling on two cases significantly impacting higher education, SFFA v. UNC and SFFA v. Harvard, I share in President Ono’s and Provost McCauley’s deep disappointment at the court’s decision to disallow the use of race as one of many factors in college admissions to promote student diversity. I also share our university leaders’ resolute commitment to continuing the work of creating and sustaining a diverse, inclusive, and equitable campus environment.
As President Ono and Provost McCauley also stated in their campus-wide message, the ruling will not change our values of diversity (including racial diversity) as interconnected with excellence, and it won’t change what we aim to accomplish in order to live up to those values.
While the ruling does not directly impact U-M’s current operations, we understand all too well its negative implications for higher education as a whole. This is familiar territory for our university – we have been here before. Since the passage of Proposal 2 in the state of Michigan in 2006, U-M has been restricted in considering race as a factor in admissions and hiring. Our experiences and a broader body of research have shown us that relying only on race-neutral approaches makes it much more difficult to achieve racial diversity than including race as one of many factors in our admissions processes. We have already seen the disproportionate negative effects of this ruling outcome on our most underrepresented student communities.
But, the outcome of Proposal 2, in many ways, has prepared us for this ruling. By removing one type of tool and strategy (race-conscious approaches), Proposal 2 compelled us to become resourceful and innovative in developing new tools and strategies. Through the expertise, clear thinking, experimentation, energy and efforts of many offices, units, departments, groups and individuals in our campus community, we have developed legally permissible procedures, processes, and programs that are making a difference. As a part of our inaugural DEI strategic plan (DEI 1.0), we have implemented and learned lessons about approaches and models that have worked to enhance diversity. We also learned about areas of greater challenge and slower progress in advancing diversity across all of our racial/ethnic communities, areas that we must attend to in even more focused ways. This will be a central imperative in our next strategic plan phase, DEI 2.0, which will launch in the coming months.
The court’s ruling also makes salient that we are in yet another historical moment in time of resistance to DEI progress. The ruling is interconnected with the wave of anti-DEI legislation across the United States that seeks to minimize the importance of diversity and to eliminate, dismantle or weaken our efforts. In the face of this resistance, I urge us to redouble our commitment and resolve to persist and grow our DEI work, utilizing even more creativity and innovation toward achieving abundant representation of the racial/ethnic groups that make up our state, nation and global communities, and toward creating and sustaining the conditions of equity and inclusion that allow all to feel belonging and to thrive on our campus.
As a public educational institution, we have a responsibility to the state of Michigan, to this country, and to the world, to provide our students with access to a world-class education, which can only be achieved with an intellectually and culturally rich campus community, including one that is racially diverse.
As a member of our university community, I am incredibly proud to work alongside inspiring leaders and change agents – administrators, faculty, staff, students, alumni and local and national community partners – who reflect our values through their continued commitment, knowledge and transformational DEI work.
By doing the important work of advancing diversity together, with diverse voices and perspectives at the table, we will make a difference, both in this moment and in building a more diverse, equitable and inclusive future for generations to come.
Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion & Chief Diversity Officer
Professor of Education and Psychology