When racist fliers were found in two buildings on the University of Michigan campus earlier this fall, university officials were quick to respond.
First, President Mark Schlissel called a “community conversation” at which students, faculty, staff, and other community members could express their thoughts and feelings. The following week, the University launched its five-year Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan.
The timing of that launch, however, was largely coincidental: the plan had been under development for more than a year. It quickly received criticism from black student activists for failing to do enough to address specific acts of racism on campus.
Schlissel said that he understands those frustrations.
“Many of our students of color, in this instance our black students, don’t always feel as though they’re fully welcomed, included members of our community,” he told us. “And when that happens, they lose their opportunity learn and to benefit from this wonderful university education we provide.”
He described the five-year plan as an ongoing effort to create a more inclusive campus – an effort which will continue even after the plan is completed in 2021.
“I’m not at all naive enough to think that at the end of five years, inclusion and equity will no longer be a problem at the University of Michigan,” he said.
As for the fliers themselves, Schlissel told us that he was "personally hurt" by the message they sent. He said that the University did not know who was responsible, or if they had any direct connection to the school.
“Whoever it was who put these fliers up weren’t speaking for us,” he said. “They were speaking for hate.”
Listen to our full conversation with University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel above.