Diversity at The University of Michigan
The subject of diversity on college campuses has always been a hot topic. At the University of Michigan, one of the largest public universities in the United States, the focus appears to revolve around number of people by race. Webster’s dictionary offers two definitions of diversity: a) the condition of being diverse (variety), i.e the inclusion of diverse people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization (programs intended to promote diversity in schools), and b) “an instance of being diverse (a diversity of opinion)” (366). The University of Michigan’s mission statement claims that it has a “long-standing commitment to diversity” and that it “celebrates and promotes diversity in all [of] its forms” (Mission). Based on the definition of diversity provided by the Webster Dictionary, this would mean that the University of Michigan includes diverse people from different cultures and races in a variety of school organizations, and that it also encompasses a wide-range of opinions. So, is the University of Michigan diverse? Is there a different way to define diversity?? The University of Michigan is in fact an extremely diverse university as it offers over a thousand ways for students of different cultures to be involved in activities together and on campus. Diversity is more than the number of minorities at the university, which leads me to believe that the University of Michigan is in fact diverse. Some people who believe that diversity is defined solely by race argue against this though, stating that there are not enough minorities on campus. Will it be the desire to be greater that inspires the University of Michigan to promote diversity, or will it be the decreasing amount of minorities enrolled?
According to the second definition from the dictionary, in order for something to be diverse there needs to be an “instance of being diverse”, which means that there should be people of different cultures, backgrounds, opinions, etc. In this sense the University of Michigan is diverse due to the number of people who come from all over the world. On the University of Michigan website, it states that there are “students from every state and 114 countries” (Current Students). Some of these countries include, Turkey, Switzerland, Germany, Afghanistan, Belarus, and Azerbaijan. Different cultures are celebrated in each of these countries, different languages are spoken, and just like in the United States, people of different religions, beliefs, interests, and skin colors live in these countries. These are only six examples of the 114 countries that students come from to attend the University of Michigan. Considering that each country is unique, and people of many different beliefs and backgrounds come from each country, the campus in Ann Arbor is diverse by definition. According to Kellie Woodhouse, a news reporter for The Ann Arbor News, in 2012 nearly half of the student population at the University of Michigan was from out of state, at “42.6” percent (1). This further proves how diverse the Michigan campus is, with almost half of the student body from out of state. People’s beliefs and backgrounds differ from city to city, and to be a campus that incorporates all kinds of people from different states only goes to prove diversity at the University of Michigan. Diversity is not simply defined by race. Diversity is not how many people of one color are on a campus.
Diversity at the University of Michigan is so much more than that due to the fact that in addition to having students from all different cultures on campus, this college provides nearly endless ways for students to engage in programs at the University. Another way that the University of Michigan supports the dictionary’s definition of diversity is by offering a – huge – variety of organizations for its diverse student body’s participation. On Maize Pages, a popular website for students to use, when conducting a search on the different organizations and clubs at the University of Michigan, one will find that there are “1,277” different organizations for students. These are only the organizations, not to mention all of the different events that the University of Michigan holds on a weekly basis. Some of these clubs include the Gay and Lesbian club, the Acoustic Guitar club, the Amazin’ Blue A Capella club, the American Geriatrics Society, the American Sign Language club, Angels on Call club, Autism club, the Anthrolopolgy club, and even the Ann Arbor Ninja Warrior Club. These are just a few of the organizations that illustrate the diversity of students and variety of interests at the University of Michigan. Needless to say, there are also many clubs on campus that focus specifically on diversity. Out of the 1,277 organizations on campus, when a search for the keyword of “diversity” is performed, 55 organizations come up in the results.
Not everybody believes that these organizations are what make the campus diverse even though many tend to look at diversity on campus as solely the number of people of a certain skin color. Since the ban of affirmative action in Michigan was re-voted into the Michigan legislature, the number of minorities represented at the University of Michigan has significantly decreased. According to a 2014 article from mlive, written by Julianne Hang, “black student enrollment at the University of Michigan dropped 30%” (2), which leads her to write that there will be, “no escape from racism” (2) unless something is done to stop avoiding racial oppression. Is a campus that encompasses over 40,000 students who come from all 50 states and over 100 countries racist? According to another 2014 article from mlive, written by Kellie Woodhouse, “The [University of Michigan] has become more competitive and Michigan high schools aren’t producing enough minority students who are prepared for the rigor of a U-M education” (1). As a school that strives to be among the “leaders and the best”, the University of Michigan has become highly selective, meaning that if students do not fit their academic requirements they will not be accepted into the University of Michigan. As this article states, since minority students are not as prepared as they should be for a college education from Michigan, the number of minority students enrolled is decreasing. Mark Bernstein, the University of Michigan regent, was quoted in this article stating, “There are fewer minority students on campus and it’s an increasingly lonely place and that is a tragedy unfolding before our very eyes” (1). Does a decreasing number of enrolled minorities mean that the University of Michigan is not diverse? Among 40,000 plus students, is campus truly a lonely place, just because there are not nearly as many minorities represented on campus as the majority? As the dictionary stated, diversity is not solely the amount of people on campus of a certain color. The University of Michigan is known to be extremely selective, and even though the numbers of minorities on campus are decreasing, the amount of people on campus who come from different cultures and backgrounds is increasing along with the number of organizations to support them. Thus, the University of Michigan is diverse.
As a matter of fact, the University of Michigan is one of the most advanced universities in the United States in terms of how handles diversity. In an articled titled, “Long-Term Transformations: Excavating Privilege and Diversity in the Academy”, author Frances A. Maher states that, “U‐M is farthest along the continuum – in the sense that the synergy between the goals of ‘diversity’ and ‘excellence’ has distinguished institutional discourses there over the past two decades” (1). The University may not be as racially diverse as some believe it needs to be, but it is impossible to deny the strengths of Michigan’s efforts to promote diversity on campus. Such as include examples of teachers, and other ways the university is making campus diverse. This article also includes an interview with James Duderstadt, the former president of the University of Michigan, where he stated that the University “could not be a great university without being a diverse university” (1). Diversity promotes excellence, and if Michigan continues to strive to have a diverse campus, it will only continue to be one of the best universities in the world. In addition Duderstadt states that, “[diversity] would apply to race, it would apply to gender, it would apply to gay rights” (1). Where Michigan may lack in the promotion of racial diversity, it is strong in its balance of gender and is known to have a campus that is accepting of all sexual identities (there are at least 10 organizations that appear on Maize Pages about sexual orientation).
While these are the opinions of professionals who work within the community or at the university, it is also important to acknowledge how students feel about the diversity of campus. In order to enhance my research, I sent a survey out to my peers. The questions were, “How would you define diversity?” The options of: a) race, b) athletics, c) religion, d) clubs, e) all of the above, and f) other were provided. If a person chose to select “other” they could provide their own answer. The second question said, “Do you believe that the University of Michigan offers a diverse campus to students?” For this question a text box was provided for the students to explain why they believed, yes, campus is diverse, or no, campus is not diverse. The results from 25 student responses are detailed in a pie chart below.
From these results it is observed that the majority of responses show that students do believe that Michigan does offer a diverse campus. Of the 25 students, 17 students believed that diversity was race, religion, athletics, and clubs (three of those people believed it was even more than that). Only four students believe that diversity can solely be represented in terms of race. To conclude, most students believe that diversity involves multiple factors, all of which are present at the University of Michigan. Insert some quotes from students both in favor of my definition of diversity and the typical one of defining diversity as race.
It is obvious though that not everybody believes in this diversity though, which means that there needs to be ways of either incorporating more diversity into campus or educating people about what diversity truly means. How does a university go about increasing diversity or educating the community about what diversity is? To begin with, the University of Michigan has recently taken hits about a lack of diversity, due to decreased amounts of minorities on campus. Students from Michigan, quoted in the mlive article by Woodhouse, believe that the University of Michigan can, “revamp how it recruits minority students and provide incentives for them to come to Michigan” (1). This implies that part of the problem does focus on race. Michigan needs to attract minorities and promote all of their diverse organizations and programs, in order to make the minorities actually want to attend the university. As for educating students about diversity on campus, the University of Michigan can continue holding events such as Fusion of Cultures, Building a Better Michigan, Change It Up, etc. There are numerous solutions to making an already diverse campus more inclusive and unique. Whether it falls upon the students, the faculty, the president, or the governor of the state of Michigan, the University of Michigan can make changes, and surely will continue making changes as it has been for the past 50 years. In addition to increasing diversity, additional funding could be made available for those who meet the requirements but do not have the finances needed to attend the University of Michigan. Start defining diversity in my terms? à Talk about instances of racism on campus, and the problems that the university has dealt with. Redefine diversity as what it means to me. Talk about how in those way the University is diverse, but that that does not mean that there is no racism. Use the daily or Michigan website to look up cases of racism as the university, but talk about that on an individual basis.
Although some people tend to believe that the University of Michigan is not diverse, due to a decreasing amount of students of color on campus, by definition the University of Michigan is almost as diverse as a school can be. It offers many different athletics for students to participate in, over one thousand clubs and organizations, and students come from all of the world to attend this renowned university. A diverse population of people is definitely essential in creating a well-rounded representation of all different people and cultures at the University of Michigan. If the recruitment process of the University of Michigan is amped up, and high schools put more focus on providing better educations to all minorities, and more funding it is possible that the University of Michigan will see an increase in the admission of minorities among campus. In order to remain among the leaders and the best, the University of Michigan has to be leaders in all aspects of education, including diversity. While the University of Michigan may already seem to be diverse enough, there is always room for improvement. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” As a university that has grand influences around the world, the University of Michigan needs to maintain its diversity, so that its students can continue being a part of a highly integrated, developing society, which I believe it already addresses successfully.