Regent Shauna Ryder Diggs on diversity, equity and inclusion


Nov. 19, 2015 

On behalf of the Board of Regents, I want to extend our personal condolences to all who have been touched by the tragic violence of the past few days in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad. We mourn with those who have lost loved ones. And we are thankful that members of the university community, who were in Paris last Friday, were not harmed.

I would like to comment on our campus community.

At the U-M, everyone belongs. Everyone here — students, faculty and staff — deserve to be respected and to have a voice. Our concept of inclusion spans heritage, ableness, diversity of thought, race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and nationality.

As I said at the diversity luncheon in February and at our planning session in September, diversity, equity and inclusion were key considerations in our search for the 14th president of the University of Michigan. We found President Mark Schlissel’s vision on these principles — and his ability to articulate that vision — exceptional among the candidates we considered. 

We were confident then, and remain confident today, that we found, in our president, someone who shares our deep commitment to these values. We are pleased with the efforts thus far, but we also recognize much remains to be done.

We must examine the linkages between our practices and our culture. I believe nothing truly good can happen without a thoughtful plan, especially with an endeavor as complex and comprehensive as this.

We are moving forward, guided by a clearly articulated strategic planning process, which builds on the work done over many previous years. The recent Diversity Summit and implementation of multiple options for everyone in the university to participate in the ongoing dialogue are two major steps in this journey. 

The appointment of Vice Provost for Equity, Inclusion and Academic Affairs Robert Sellers is an additional critical achievement in the process.

We want students to be able to thrive in any environment here and around the globe. We want to accept students, hire staff, and review faculty without unconscious bias and mentor them all in an inclusive environment. And, we want our students to benefit from a diverse campus experience, able to thrive, succeed and lead in any environment, here and around the globe.

Recent events at the University of Missouri, Yale and other campuses around the country — along with the conversations we have had on our own campus — remind us that we have to be relentless and unequivocal in our commitment to making this the diverse and welcoming campus we want it to be — that it must be if we are to be a great public university into and beyond the 21st century.

In the middle of the previous century, at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, Robert F. Kennedy observed that, “It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped.”

Conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion can be difficult to speak and to hear.  I believe our community of scholars has the requisite courage and belief to move this vast and outstanding institution forward. There is no substitute for relentless and collaborative hard work and we expect this work will continue — this year and many years beyond.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. … Every step toward the goal of justice requires tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

We have these dedicated individuals here. As UM-Flint Chancellor Susan Borrego put it, “As members of our campus community, we must each take the first step” in that journey. We’ve done that already.

We thank everyone who already has taken the first steps in the journey and welcome those who will join it, going forward.


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