University of Michigan plans to boost racial diversity

Ann Arbor school president was ‘chastened’ by students


ANN ARBOR — The University of Michigan plans steps to boost racial diversity on campus, increase black enrollment, and improve the school’s multicultural center, officials said.

Students living on campus in coming years will get training on tolerance and expectations for living in a racially diverse community, the Ann Arbor News reported.

Last month, students raised concerns online using the Twitter hashtag “BBUM,” standing for “Being Black at Michigan.”

“I was chastened by the comments from the students,” school President Mary Sue Coleman said in a recent editorial board interview with the newspaper. “Our numbers are not where we’d like them to be.”

The Ann Arbor school said black enrollment has declined since a 2006 change to the state constitution prohibiting state schools from considering race as a factor when choosing students.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule by late June on the issue.

Affirmative action itself is not before the court in the current dispute, although the case has its roots in the court’s decision in a 2003 Michigan case that race could be a factor in college admissions.

Opponents of that decision organized a ballot proposal to modify the state constitution.

“We have both hands tied behind our back,” Ms. Coleman said.

Black students comprised 4.6 percent of the University of Michigan’s freshman class in 2012, which was down from 6.8 percent in 2008, not including international students.

Despite enrollment numbers, school officials report that a healthy number of underrepresented minorities are applying and getting accepted, but many of those who are accepted don’t enroll. Officials are working on outreach programs to boost enrollment.

Provost Martha Pollack also is convening a staff and faculty committee on diversity to develop ideas to promote inclusion. She wrote about plans to boost racial diversity in a note last week to University of Michigan stakeholders.

“We recognize that we need to take action, within the law, to encourage those students to enroll here,” she wrote.