This hasn’t been a good year for inclusivity on college campuses.
With the racial tensions that have intensified at the University of Missouri, Yale University and other universities over these past months, there is increased scrutiny over what responsibilities schools should assume for the safety and well-being of their students.
The letter President Julio Frenk released today invites us to think more about what diversity and belonging truly mean. Frenk also outlined a few clear, concrete plans of action that are elaborated further in a report published by the Presidential Task Force to Address Black Students’ Concerns.
The increased funds and prominence given to the Multicultural Student Association (MSA) stood out as a smart move to support genuine improvement in terms of campus services. The MSA already provides practical, valuable services for the student community, such as book loans and guidance services. With the administration’s support, the MSA can do even more for diverse students in need.
Frenk also introduced plans to recruit more black students and faculty.
Upon first glance, Frenk’s bold goal to matriculate the largest percentage of black students among peer institutions seems too ambitious. Yet, with black students making up only 9 percent of our student body, the University of Miami still has one of the highest black student enrollments among a cohort of 30 aspirational peer institutions listed in the Task Force report.
Schools like Harvard University and Duke University have already raised their freshman matriculation rate of black students to 11 percent since 2013. It only seems right that UM also puts more effort into attracting talented black students from around the country.
Along those lines, the plans to recruit more black faculty through retention packages and networking seem necessary. As we reported last February, only 4 percent of faculty in 2014 identified as African American. Ideally, a more diverse faculty will increase the feeling of belonging for black students and will also enrich the experiences of all students.
As true beneficiaries of free speech, we understand that the protection of worthy ideas is inextricable from the protection of those that are ugly and harmful. Some of the language used in Frenk’s letter invites additional questions: in taking actions against racism and damaging speech, have consequences already been enacted? To what extent will the university prevent or intervene on controversial or damaging acts taken by individuals?
Yet overall, Frenk’s letter is purposeful and reflective. It is a promise that UM can and will do better to live up to our diverse image, and it shows Frenk takes his work with the Task Force seriously enough to offer something more than the usual vague, empty supplications we hear too often from official figures. Maybe this hasn’t been a great year for inclusivity for colleges around the nation, but perhaps the next few years can be better, at least on this campus.
Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.
President Julio Frenk’s letter is available online at themiamihurricane.com. The most updated report compiled by the Task Force to Address Black Students’ Concerns will be available at miami.edu/provost.