The majority of presidents say they have met with student organizers on more than one occasion. Three quarters of the schools surveyed have taken steps to increase diversity among students, faculty, and staff. Most have implemented some form of diversity or cultural-competency training, and devoted resources toward minority student support services. But few of the presidents surveyed said they have plans to further change policies or procedures in the future. And fewer than half “strongly agree” that their faculty, staff, and governing board “have an awareness or sensitivity to the need for racial diversity and inclusion.”
Jia Ireland, a 23-year-old graduate student at the University of Michigan’s Flint satellite campus who serves as the historian for the Black Student Union, said her school’s administration has attended rallies to show support for students, but she’s frustrated by what she sees as a slow process of implementing campus-wide changes (a social justice and cultural center aimed at students of color was created after a 2014 push by the black student union, she said, but still operates with an interim director). “We talk about being inclusive,” she said, “but you’re still dealing with microaggressions and racism on campus and in the community.” And, she added, the Flint campus feels somewhat disconnected from the main Ann Arbor campus, where the president’s office is located.
“Staff in the Intercultural Center as well as the Women's and LGBT Center are conducting campus climate surveys and collecting data on the student, staff, and faculty experience with an eye towards becoming an innovative center in diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives,” the school’s chancellor, Susan Borrego, said in a statement. “There is also the new addition of the Women's Commission and Diversity Council, both advising the chancellor directly on issues related to systemic and cultural chance. We are also proud that our first chief officer for campus inclusion was appointed this year.”
Black Lives Matter activists, Muslim student associations, LGBT groups, and others have argued that any recent shifts toward greater inclusion are too slow and too limited. But it’s worth noting that deciding how to engage and what to change is a complicated debate for college presidents, who are tasked with serving students, but also representing alumni, and, particularly for public universities, lobbying lawmakers and business leaders. David DePriest, an 18-year-old freshman from Kansas City, Missouri, at Howard University in Washington, D.C., said his professors have incorporated discussions about Black Lives Matter into classes. Some faculty members, he said, have even joined students at marches or encouraged voter registration drives. And, in part because of its status as a historically black school, conversations have been campus-wide, not siloed as they have been on some other campuses. But he said he feels that the president and the Board of Trustees have been “pretty silent.”