Letters: Other views on diversity, border wall, water

The Detroit News

A more diverse University of Michigan benefits all

The Detroit News editorial (“Students pay high price for UM diversity goals," Jan. 9) mischaracterizes our efforts to enhance the quality of the university and promote broader access to life-changing education through our investments in diversity, equity and inclusion.

The editorial claims that 76 UM employees are solely “dedicated to diversity efforts” and that this is a wasteful use of university resources. In reality, more than 80 percent of the positions existed before the 2016 formal launch of our diversity, equity and inclusion initiative and represent our longstanding commitment to these values.

President of the University of Michigan Mark Schlissel presides over the University of Michigan regents meeting at Richard L. Postma Family Clubhouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan on September 20, 2018.

Some of these staff do work that is required by federal law, such as the professionals in our Office for Institutional Equity who conduct investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct, age discrimination and gender bias and protect civil rights. Some are staff members who work to ensure that we recruit and retain the best scholars and employees from all communities.

In many cases, staff with the term “diversity” in their job descriptions have added these specific duties to jobs they already had. Everyone benefits from their work.

Our work on diversity, equity and inclusion is motivated by our belief that diversity and academic excellence are inseparable. They cannot exist without each other.

Volumes of research demonstrate that diversity improves problem-solving by research teams and leads to better educational outcomes for all students. Furthermore, developing a more diverse student community helps us better teach our students how to live, work, lead and succeed in an increasingly multicultural and global society.

I have always believed that talent is distributed widely in our society but opportunity is not. 

We are making progress in many areas.

First-generation students — those who are the first in their families to attend a four-year college or university — were 14 percent of 2018’s incoming class; in 2014 that number was only 11.3 percent. Underrepresented minorities made up 14.8 percent of our most recent first-year class, which is up from 10 percent in 2014. Though UM has increasing numbers of students who are Hispanic, Asian American or more than one race, we must improve enrollment of African-American and Native American students.

We have increased the number of UM undergraduates receiving Pell grants, a common measure of socioeconomic diversity, from 16.5 percent in 2014 to 17.9 percent this year.

A significant part of our investment in diversity consists of increased funding for need-based financial aid that keeps a UM education affordable for students from families all across the state. Given public discourse around college affordability, it may surprise readers that nearly 4,300 in-state undergraduates at UM — that’s almost 26 percent — paid no tuition last fall. Zero.

This includes students attending UM under our Go Blue Guarantee that promises free tuition to eligible in-state students from families with annual incomes at or below $65,000 and who have less than $50,000 in assets. These are talented students from all parts of our state who otherwise may have found that a UM education was not within their reach.

At UM it is our hope that all 50,000 of our employees would seek to enhance diversity in all its forms across the full breadth of society including race, gender, social class, disability status, diversity of thought, first-generation student status, political orientation, sexual identity/orientation, religion, veteran status, national origin and age. This includes ensuring that when a student or employee earns an opportunity to study or work at UM, they have an equal chance to thrive and experience a community free of discrimination.

Mark S. Schlissel, president

University of Michigan 

We must fund the border wall

I am writing to urge Rep. Elissa Slotkin to vote in favor of funding the border wall. Without a wall we simply cannot keep our border secure.

As you know, the funds would not only provide a steel barrier at the border, but also additional border patrol agents and more resources to detect drugs and weapons coming into our porous southern states.

The United States welcomes legal immigrants on a daily basis who have been properly vetted; however, with our outdated immigration laws we cannot control the flow of opioids and shady characters that pose a threat to our safety and security. This bill provides additional ICE agents and more judges to tackle the backlog of immigration cases. Funding for the wall is a common sense solution to this critical problem.

Let's put an end to the shutdown. Please vote yes to keep America safe!

Lindsay Snabes

Rochester Hills

Opposing Dirty Water Rule

The 2015 Clean Water Rule reinstated safeguards on America’s waterways under the Clean Water Act. However, the recent decision to strip those protections from the EPA’s authority would result in dirtier, more polluted water for citizens across the country. 

Despite this rule being a significant piece of legislation, the EPA has allowed only a 60-day period for public comments. Due to the government shutdown, EPA officials have also postponed public hearings on the new rule. Through hundreds of thousands of public comments on the 2015 rule, Americans encouraged our lawmakers to defend our nation’s waterways.

We cannot allow the current administration to undo what we have achieved. We know that Americans want safeguards for clean water, and our elected officials have an obligation to uphold those standards. In order to keep our waterways safe and clean for every American to use and enjoy, we must ensure these protections remain intact. 

James Polidori