“Date: Wednesday, March 31, 2004 2:55 PM -0500
From: Mary Sue Coleman marysuec at umich.edu
To: student.voices at umich.edu
Cc: MI-Roundtable at umich.edu, msa.reps at umich.edu
Subject: Letter from the President
I was impressed with your thoughtful presentation of student concerns at the March board meeting. But I was disappointed we did not have a more productive dialogue regarding student concerns when we met at Trotter House on Monday. I had hoped we could use that time to put some important ideas on the table, and to talk together about plans moving forward.
I am not interested, however, in responding to a set of demands where no real discussion can take place. I believe that progress on important issues can only come from dialogue. I’d like to share my thoughts with you in more detail.
First, I have been listening carefully to your concerns. It is clear we have to establish productive dialogue among students and administrators-and in some cases, accelerate decisions that have taken too long. Also, we must build better decision-making processes on major University initiatives focused on students-processes that fully engage student input.
It is not possible for the administration to always be in one hundred percent agreement with students on every issue. We will certainly have some differences of opinion along the way. But when we do, I am prepared to share the principles and facts that have guided our final decisions.
On Monday Provost Courant, Vice President Harper and I wanted to share several actions with you to address many of the concerns you have expressed. Also, we want to keep the door open for continued discussion on these and other issues that will take more consideration and study. I hope you will join us in this work.
I will outline these ideas below.
Establishment of a Standing Student Advisory Committee-Vice President Harper will establish an advisory committee to encourage additional student input on University issues that have an impact on student communities. The advisory group will include representatives from student organizations. Clear guidelines for nomination to the committee, terms of service and
other protocol issues will be established.
Re-establishment of annual Provost’s discussion on budget convened by MSA-In past years, MSA convened a dialogue between University budget administrators and students, to discuss the budget-setting and prioritization process. Provost Courant would like to re-establish this tradition and ask MSA to host this discussion in April of this year and annually thereafter.
Trotter House project planning-In April, a team of student representatives, facilities experts and staff will be established to recommend possible options for Trotter House. Vice President Harper has asked Patricia Aqui Pacania, director of the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs, to lead this fast-track planning effort. The group’s work will be shared widely with the campus community in the fall. We are looking carefully at the University’s fundraising capacity and the Office of Development will provide counsel on realistic fundraising goals. I have made a commitment to be personally engaged in fundraising for Trotter House as well.
Greek System discussion-We believe this subject needs more time for consideration and discussion. There are many serious issues that need our attention. We want to establish a clearly prescribed process to 1) outline the issues and goals, 2) mutually agree on the student and faculty advisors, 3) provide for open discussion, and 4) determine an end date by which final decisions will be made.
SAPAC-The decisions regarding SAPAC were made in order to respond to very real and enduring concerns about our ability to serve all our students. Complete status quo is not an option. The changes will enable the University to provide a greater level of specialized counseling services to survivors of sexual assault and trauma. Vice President Harper has indicated her willingness to continue a dialogue about how to go forward in a way that is responsive to student needs, especially the need for safe space.
Student recruitment-Many students are currently involved in elements of the recruitment process within their schools and colleges, including LSA student government representatives as members of the LSA Admissions Advisory Committee. We welcome additional student input as we continue to evaluate our new undergraduate admissions process and enhance our outreach and recruiting efforts.
Budget and Program Issues
Budget cuts-The magnitude of our budget constraints and the effect of the resulting cuts is not easy on any part of our community. The hard reality is that all of us will have to deal with cuts to program support in an effort to manage the enormity of the short-term budget crisis. But you are right when you ask us to also find a way to support our University’s work to be a truly diverse and inclusive community.
We will work to identify some additional resources, through reallocation, for areas where the funding levels are such that programs are at special risk. Also, we will work with students to ensure that the impact of budget cuts is minimized. Specifically with respect to Pow Wow, the University will cover the program’s deficit this year as it has in the past. We will work to develop a sustainable budget model for the future.
Latino Coordinator-We are moving ahead and the position will be posted within two weeks.
Michigamua-The University took strong actions two years ago to establish an environment of respect related to Native American heritage. The Office of the Provost has begun investigating the transcript issue raised at the March Regents meeting. We have discovered that over 200 student organizations and affiliations are listed on transcripts, but the process is not clear and it is obviously out of date. The Provost has charged the Registrar with a study of the issue and will recommend appropriate next steps.
Your forceful description of the pain of hate incidents was very powerful to me and I am dedicated to addressing this for our whole campus. Hate incidents are insidious and have a damaging effect on our campus climate. I have asked the Campus Safety and Security Advisory Committee to explore the creation of a comprehensive hate incident reporting mechanism. I want the effort to achieve several goals:
–create a greater awareness of the issue on campus,
–make sure that those who experience hate incidents can reach out to us,
–and make sure DPS is engaged to address hate crimes that are identified by members of our community.
The Campus Safety and Security Committee is chaired by Vice President and Secretary of the University Lisa Tedesco. The charge of this advisory group is to assist with the ongoing review of issues related to campus safety, and its membership includes student representatives. The committee has already taken up the issue and is prepared to explore next steps.
Transgender, Bisexual, Lesbian and Gay Task Force
The TBLG Task Force, charged by Provost Courant, is expected to issue a report in April. We will be acting upon the report’s recommendations in the coming months.
In summary, we are paying careful attention to the concerns you have raised. Some actions will take place immediately, and in other cases we have more work to do as a community. My goal, and I trust it is your goal, is to make the best decisions we can for the students who are here now and for those to come.
Mary Sue Coleman