DEI Working Group Charge and Next Steps (September 22, 2020)

Dear Faculty, Staff and Students, 

I am writing with news regarding the campus’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Working Group.

On June 1, in response to the senseless killings of several Black men and women and the anger and hurt that again emerged across the country, I announced the creation of a DEI Working Group to increase our awareness of and deepen our commitment to respect, inclusion and diversity. It is my hope that our campus community can generate real action in responding to challenging and complex DEI issues. The working group is chaired by my Chief of Staff Keisha Blevins, Dean Ann Lampkin-Williams and my strategic planning co-chair Professor Deborah Smith Pollard. 

Since the creation of this group the co-chairs have been working to develop tangible action items, expected results and a reasonable timeline with the sincere aim of promoting a campus community that reaffirms and demonstrates our commitment to serving students and the public good during these difficult times and beyond. The charge was developed based on campus input received during the strategic planning process and from ideas submitted by students, faculty, and staff in response to last month’s call for big ideas related to DEI at UM-Dearborn. 

In other important DEI related activities, this summer, a separate group of faculty and staff members has self-assembled and suggested that a sustained focus on systemic racism would greatly benefit our campus and recommended possibilities for consideration. With input from faculty, staff, and students, we have also selected this year’s campus read, How to Be an Antiracist. Feedback and input from this group has helped and will continue to help to inform our DEI Working Group that will provide recommendations for the provost and me to consider in the coming months as we continue our promise to strengthen DEI on campus.

A meaningful commitment to DEI requires an intentional and concurrent focus on both individual behavior and university systems/structures. This means we not only listen to, learn from and address concerns of marginalized communities, but also ensure that our established and  instantiated policies, practices and decisions reflect our commitment to DEI. During the annual evaluation process for my direct reports, I have asked each leader to share how they are working to foster a diverse and inclusive working environment in their areas of responsibility. I also asked my senior leadership team to read and discuss the book, White Fragility, which offers ways to understand entrenched injustice.

In the coming weeks, I will ask each unit leader to review their operating practices and policies with an eye toward uncovering and addressing any vestiges of systemic racism. I have also asked our director of the Office of Institutional Equity, Pam Heatlie, to conduct a new campus-wide climate survey to help us see clearly where we can make our university culture more inclusive.  

Armed with data and knowledge of broad-based perspectives and experiences, we will review, develop and consider alternative approaches to our work and reexamine how we educate students and interact with one another. The following areas of focus will be addressed by the working group, in close consultation with the campus community:

  1. Statement of our common principles and beliefs. 
  2. Research, scholarship, teaching and service that highlights and responds to issues related to inclusion and equity. 
  3. Broadening/expanding pathways for access and supporting success and nurturing growth. 
  4. Fostering an inclusive, welcoming and equitable campus environment.
  5. Expand public engagement and work together to find ways the university can connect with communities in southeast Michigan on issues of mutual importance. 

Each of the above areas will have a clear line of sight to our overarching goal of student success and the public good vis-à-vis the campus strategic plan, our strategic enrollment management plan and our urban futures initiative.  

We invite faculty, staff, students and others from our extended community to be a part of the working group and to be active participants in one of the above focus areas. If you would like to volunteer or otherwise provide input, please contact Keisha Blevins at [email protected]. We will announce opportunities for the entire campus community to offer input on various aspects of the DEI Working Group’s recommendations at later dates. 

Finally, based on the urging of faculty, staff and students, I along with other leaders on campus, will hold a series of intimate small group sessions, limited to 15 people, during the month of October. During these sessions we will discuss DEI experiences on campus and the recent cafe situation. Information regarding the sessions will be shared later this week. 

I look forward to engaging with you on this important initiative that will help shape UM-Dearborn in the years to come. 

Go Blue - Go Dearborn!

Domenico Grasso

Office of the Chancellor

1070 - Administration Building
4901 Evergreen Road
Dearborn, MI 48128
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Phone: 313-593-5500
Fax: 313-593-5204