From the steps of the U. S. Supreme Court to mega-churches in Detroit and far smaller congregations around the state, at the National Press Club and in the halls of academia, President Mary Sue Coleman has spoken up on behalf of the important role diversity plays in higher education.
Her 12 years of leadership comprise both achievements and challenges — some new and some continuing.
Minority faculty numbers have enjoyed notable growth during her tenure, the number of U-M minority Ph.D. recipients is in the top 10 nationally, and African-American attainment of the Ph.D. is the third highest in the United States. Additionally, the six-year and four-year “graduation gap” rates between majority and underrepresented minority baccalaureates have decreased.
“President Coleman has built an unparalleled infrastructure in support of diversity,” said Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Lester Monts, whom Coleman drafted in 2002 to also serve as her senior counselor for the arts, diversity, and undergraduate affairs. “This is a critical asset for the long-term.”
In 2003, Coleman walked away from the U.S. Supreme Court having won the right to use affirmative action in the admissions-related cases Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger.
Following passage of Proposal 2 in 2006, which amended the Michigan Constitution to effectively remove affirmative action from admissions, Coleman launched the Diversity Blueprints Task Force, which brought together faculty, staff, students, and alumni to define a uniquely Michigan way forward.
Blueprints results include substantial enhancements to the National Center for Institutional Diversity, reconfiguration and strengthening of the Office of Institutional Equity, and creation of the highly regarded Center for Educational Outreach and the Diversity Matters at Michigan online compendium of diversity-related resources, information and news.
Simultaneously, the university has enrolled increasing numbers of students who are the first in their families to go to college or are from low-income families.
In her Feb. 20 remarks to the Board of Regents, Coleman said, “We haven’t always gotten it right through the decades, and we’ve had great struggles along the way. But the long view shows that Michigan stands for improving diversity and access in higher education. … Great struggles occur at great universities. People expect Michigan to effect social change.
“I am proud this university leads in the country with a historic commitment to diversity and the courage to face the hardest challenges with integrity and intellectual rigor.”