The Rock painted with BLM, I can't Breathe, and George Floyd

Throughout 2020–21, U-M advanced a set of anti-racism initiatives that built on the extensive DEI work already underway. These initiatives aim to refocus our collective attention and energy toward building an anti-racist campus culture. The university’s expanded anti-racism efforts include:

  • Creating a task force on policing and public safety for the Ann Arbor campus
  • Hiring at least 20 new full-time faculty members in the next three years with scholarly expertise in racial inequality and structural racism
  • Expanding resources and infrastructure to support new and current U-M scholars working in the area of anti-racism
  • Reevaluating race and ethnicity curriculum requirements across the university’s 19 schools and colleges
  • Strengthening faculty and staff professional development opportunities related to anti-racism
  • Incorporating ways to address structural racism in the university’s Democracy & Debate Theme Semester
  • Creating a task force to develop a community-engaged process for diversifying the names considered for campus spaces, facilities and streets
  • Establishing the George Floyd Memorial Scholarship Fund to encourage donor investment in student leaders and to honor the legacy of past leaders in DEI

Task Force on Campus Public Safety

In collaboration with its Department of Public Safety and Security (DPSS), the university appointed a task force charged with helping all members of the Ann Arbor campus better understand the status of policing and public safety, and ensuring the implementation of respectful, transparent and community-responsive public safety services for all. As noted by Provost Susan M. Collins, “To be effective, this work must leverage and reflect perspectives from all stakeholders…and must pay particular attention to the experiences and perspectives of our communities of color and others who are disproportionately impacted by challenging national policing policies and practices.” Task Force members were selected in January 2021 based on recommendations and input from a broad array of campus groups. Their mission was to study U-M’s current public safety efforts, identify problem areas, determine areas of need, recognize and leverage strengths and generate actionable recommendations. The group issued its final report with recommendations in May 2021.

The university will begin to implement recommendations from the Advancing Public Safety at the University of Michigan Task Force—including committing additional resources to the Police Department Oversight Committee and establishing procedures that ensure unified data collection practices—while recognizing that others will require further information, analysis and consideration.

The Anti-Racism Hiring Initiative

To leverage existing expertise and enhance the university’s capacity for scholarship aimed at dismantling systemic racism, a cohort of deans has laid the groundwork for hiring at least 20 new faculty members to focus on anti-racism and racial justice scholarship. Launched in winter 2021 and supported by a financial commitment from the Office of the Provost, this three-year initiative will bring additional scholarly expertise in racial inequality and structural racism—including clusters of faculty focusing on social justice, health equity and environmental justice—to schools and colleges across the Ann Arbor campus. To date, eight faculty positions have been selected for funding in the first round of the initiative, with a second call for proposals scheduled for Fall 2021. The new faculty will join a well-established anti-racism research infrastructure, now provided with additional funding from the Office of the Provost through the National Center for Institutional Diversity. Current U-M initiatives such as the Prison Creative Arts Project, Carceral State Project and Poverty Solutions will also continue to impact scholarship, teaching and community engagement.

DEI  Professional Development

To reinforce anti-racism work across campus and to leverage the university’s established network of DEI implementation leads, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) will work collaboratively to increase anti-racism professional development opportunities for faculty and staff. Currently, there are 104 DEI implementation leads in 50 campus units, all of whom plan and implement DEI efforts within the schools, colleges and campus offices they represent. Through a significant investment in professional development, DEI Leads will learn and further develop anti-racist approaches in their current work and will develop anti-racism education and training for faculty, staff and students.

Inclusive Pedagogical Training

In partnership with the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT), the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) is enhancing the capacity of faculty to utilize anti-racist pedagogy and curriculum in the classroom. Inclusive Teaching Liaisons are learning the fundamental principles of anti-racist teaching and working with CRLT consultants to adapt these principles to the instructional styles of their disciplines, fields and professions.

Race and Ethnicity Curriculum

As U-M’s 19 schools and colleges evaluate their individual curricula, units across campus launched initiatives to explore, assess and enhance their DEI efforts and related course requirements. While individual schools and colleges such as LSA, the School of Education, the School of Social Work, and the College of Engineering require students to complete a course related to race and ethnicity, the mandate is not universal. With centrally coordinated support, deans from every school and college are now overseeing the effort, focusing on the role of race and ethnicity within their respective fields and disciplines. Faculty, students and staff within the schools and colleges will then determine the most appropriate way to incorporate the requirement. In addition, the Office of the Provost is partnering with the Division of Student Life to develop extracurricular programming that provides students with a broad understanding of racism, privilege and oppression.

Democracy & Debate Theme Semester

In 2020, U-M launched the Democracy & Debate Theme Semester, a unique opportunity for teaching and learning about free speech and the exchange of ideas, democratic engagement from a global perspective, and what it means to be a member of a democratic society. Anti-racism was also an integral element. The theme semester linked university-wide courses and events with online learning opportunities and a voter engagement initiative known as the Big Ten Voting Challenge.

Naming Campus Spaces

A task force was launched in winter 2021 to encourage diverse community input in the naming of campus buildings and other spaces. Although the Board of Regents is responsible for all building name decisions, the task force is crafting and piloting a process to develop a diverse pool of potential names for campus spaces. The goal is more campus spaces that reflect the wide-ranging backgrounds and perspectives of individuals who have been instrumental in U-M’s teaching, research and service.

George Floyd Memorial Scholarship Fund

Inspired by a challenge from North Central University President Scott Hagen, U-M alumnus Marchell Willian presented to President Mark Schlissel the idea to establish a George Floyd Memorial Scholarship Fund at U-M. Willian, an attorney in Illinois, gave the lead endowment to establish the scholarship fund designed to inspire others to increase support. The need-based scholarship will give preference to students who have participated in Wolverine Pathways, the college-readiness program that serves students from Detroit, Southfield, and Ypsilanti Community school districts, and who have demonstrated a commitment to bettering their community. The U-M community can contribute to the scholarship fund through an online fundraiser.

Anti-Racism Efforts Across Campus

Schools, colleges and campus offices also enacted new anti-racism efforts, several of which are featured in Campus Spotlights included in this report. A few examples of these efforts include:

  • A Black Lives Matter banner installation at the U-M Museum of Art, and an Anti-Racist Action Statement that details plans to “build a more inclusive museum”
  • An equity and justice initiative by the School for Environment and Sustainability, aimed at creating an environment that advances equal rights for all
  • The launch of two major proposals by the College of Engineering, including education around issues of race, ethnicity, unconscious bias and inclusion for everyone in engineering, and a new DEI center
  • Myriad offerings within LSA such as the “Just Community: A Reading and Action Program for Racial Justice” initiative