President Mark Schlissel and Board of Regents Chair Shauna Ryder Diggs thanked the University of Michigan community Thursday for engaging in the many Diversity Summit events last week on the Ann Arbor campus.
Their comments came at the start of the Board of Regents meeting. The summit was part of a yearlong process of developing a universitywide strategic plan regarding diversity, equity and inclusion.
The president said the summit allowed the university community to examine issues of inequality and diversity from multiple perspectives. He said he and other university leaders heard clear messages from many perspectives.
“One message was hopeful. Our community is engaging very deeply in this important work,” the president said. “Many of the events were at full capacity. We heard good ideas that will be considered as part of our plans, as well as thoughtful input on the process itself.
“Another message we heard was that in many areas, we are not living up to the values we aspire to. Members of our community discussed experiences that were not positive and that sometimes were even painful.”
Schlissel said these painful experiences were “courageously shared by students, faculty and staff who feel like they do not have an equal opportunity to succeed, or are even at risk in our community, because of who they are.
“We cannot reach our full potential as a university when there are so many among us who are experiencing the U-M community this negatively. We must do better and we will.
“Ensuring that U-M is an environment free of discrimination is one of our most important responsibilities and a major objective of the campus strategic plan we are developing around diversity, equity and inclusion,” he said.
Diggs acknowledged that conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion can be difficult to speak and to hear, but expressed her appreciation that the university community was willing to tackle this important topic.
“I believe our community of scholars has the requisite courage and belief to move this vast and outstanding institution forward. There is no substitute for relentless and collaborative hard work and we expect this work will continue — this year and beyond.
“At U-M, everyone belongs,” she said. “Everyone here — students, faculty and staff — deserve to be respected and to have a voice. Our concept of inclusion spans heritage, ableness, diversity of thought, race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and nationality.”
Both Diggs and Schlissel expressed their sadness for all of those affected by the recent terrorist attacks in Beirut, Paris, Baghdad and other cities. And they expressed their thanks that no U-M students, faculty or staff were victims of the attacks.
Diggs said that addressing issues of diversity, equity and inclusion were key considerations in the board’s search for the 14th president of the university. “We found President Mark Schlissel’s vision on these principles — and his ability to articulate that vision — exceptional among the candidates we considered,” she said.
“We were confident then, and remain confident today, that we found, in our president, someone who shares our deep commitment to these values. We are pleased with the efforts thus far, but we also recognize much remains to be done,” she said.
Schlissel also said he was proud of U-M students who have shown their support for the student protesters at the University of Missouri and Yale University, and shared similar experiences of how some are treated on the U-M campus.
“I am very proud of our students for being engaged at a national level on the very important issue of racial justice in higher education. Racism and discrimination have no place on our college and university campuses, or anywhere in society,” the president said.