Words and Deeds: University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Blogs, Letters & Testimonials

July 21, 2020

By: Katlyn Riggins 

We’ve been comparing college president statements on race with their respective college’s performance. Let’s just say there’s a gap.

After George Floyd’s murder, the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor’s President Mark Schlissel issued the following statement

At U-M [Ann Arbor], we must use our power to address major societal problems – especially those that diminish our society so tragically. This is clear in our mission. Our mission is also why our work to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion must continue. The University of Michigan has a critical role to play and an obligation to lead the kind of changes in our society that we all want to see.” 

Nice words, but they’re not backed up by action. Schlissel claimed that the University of Michigan will continue to “enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion,” but there is little evidence of success with previous efforts on this front at UM-Ann Arbor at least when it comes to Black students. 

We’ve been taking a closer look at Michigan public higher education. For the past decade, the UM-Ann Arbor’s enrollment rates for Black students have been flat and low, really low. Black students never made up even 4.5% of undergraduates at Ann Arbor between 2010 and 2018, even though during this period over 17% of the state’s 18-24-year-olds were African-American.

*Source: Analysis from Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) / Michigan.gov

The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor’s Black-White 6-Year graduation gap has remained flat, too at about a 14 percent difference year over year with one exception over the last decade for which there’s federal data. 

*Source: Analysis from Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)

We’ve seen reports of other colleges that close the graduation gap. Why not UM-Ann Arbor?

To be clear, it’s good to see a renewed commitment to racial justice and diversity by Michigan college presidents, especially when their school has not demonstrated past outcomes in keeping with these latest statements. Hopefully, college leaders will use this moment of momentum to make a meaningful commitment to diversity and racial justice on their campuses and beyond. 

Because talk is welcome. But talk is also cheap.

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