President's Commission on Diversity and Inclusion

November 1, 2016

To the Eastern Michigan University community:

At today’s Board of Regents meeting, I announced the creation of the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion. I write now to provide additional information about this important initiative.

It is critical that we, as a University, strive to ensure a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students, employees, and visitors, regardless of race, ethnic or national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The Black community on our campus was targeted by hateful acts of racist vandalism last month and again yesterday. Similar events have occurred on campuses throughout Michigan and the nation. When events like these occur, it strengthens our resolve to continue our work towards a campus that embodies our values of respect, equity, and inclusion.

At the end of the Winter 2016 semester, Interim President Don Loppnow convened a small group of faculty and staff charged with providing recommendations to the President to enhance the climate on our campus. This group consisted of:

  • Dr. Margaret Crouch, Professor of History & Philosophy and Chair of the President’s Women’s Commission;
  • Dr. Sylvia Gray, Professor of Social Work;
  • Julia Heck, Associate Director of the Office of the Ombuds;
  • Dr. Chiara Hensley, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs; and,
  • Dr. Melody Werner, Title IX Coordinator.

The group was assisted by Dr. Lynn Nybell, Director of the School of Social Work.

This group of dedicated faculty and staff has completed its work and, based on their recommendation, I am pleased to announce the creation of this new Commission.

Modeled after the President’s Women’s Commission, which has functioned successfully for several decades, the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion will be charged with, among other things: 

  • Providing recommendations to undertake systematic campus climate studies, including a study on the campus racial climate;
  • Identifying existing programs and resources that have succeeded in strengthening a climate of respect and inclusiveness on our campus and other campuses; and,
  • Providing input, and making specific recommendations, to the President and campus community about the campus climate and how to provide a more inclusive culture.

This Commission is the natural product of the University’s Strategic Plan and our Mission, Vision, and Core Values, all of which anchor the University’s commitment to inclusion and diversity.

The Commission will consist of student leaders, faculty, staff, and members of the community. The President will be charged with appointing the members of the Commission and I welcome nominations from the campus and broader community for individuals to serve as inaugural members of the Commission. Recommendations may be e-mailed to president@emich.edu and should include the nominee’s resume or CV.

This Commission is not a short-term project; ensuring an inclusive community that regularly welcomes and values individuals of all backgrounds is an ongoing goal that will always deserve attention as our campus and society evolve. This Commission is therefore intended to become a permanent group organized to provide specific suggestions to the President on a regular basis about how to enhance the campus climate.

Similarly, this Commission is not the single solution to solving complex racial and social problems that have plagued our world for millennia; it is the first of many steps that we will take to further enhance our campus climate. I am grateful to the committee of faculty and staff who suggested this Commission and provided an excellent framework to support its success.

I enthusiastically accepted the presidency at Eastern in large part because of the diversity of the University and this community, as well as Eastern’s mission as an institution of opportunity. I wholeheartedly embrace this mission. I look forward to working with the Commission and the entire campus community in the coming years to continue Eastern’s 167-year history as an excellent public university that provides opportunity to countless individuals. 

President Jim Smith