President Frenk strives to foster campus inclusivity

President Julio Frenk will announce Thursday in a letter to the University of Miami community a goal to increase enrollment of black students and recruitment of more black faculty as well as the creation of a Standing Committee on Diversity and Inclusion.

Click here to read President Julio Frenk’s letter.

The letter, which The Miami Hurricane received before its release to the UM community, also described Frenk’s desire to enact initiatives to create a more welcoming environment for students of color at UM.

The Task Force to Address Black Students’ Concerns that was created in February 2015 under former President Donna Shalala reported to Frenk on the racial climate on campus and advised certain steps that the university could take to ensure a safer, happier environment for black students, according to the letter.

The task force was asked by Shalala to meet by March 1 and to create a final report with recommendations by May 15.

The initial impetus for the task force was dialogue between undergraduate students and administration following reactions to a Black Lives Matter rally that was held on campus exactly a year ago.

Violent and racially charged comments were made anonymously on the popular social media app, Yik Yak, during and after the event, spurring Shalala to address students of color – specifically black students – and the prejudice they face at UM.

In a Dec. 12 email to UM students and faculty, Shalala directly referenced the rally, the string of peaceful protests and the need to deal with racial bias.

“Racism is everyone’s problem. Right now, as a nation and as a campus community, we must face this painful and divisive issue with openness, courage and deep respect for our differences … there’s no room for hate or intolerance,” she wrote.

Frenk announced a goal to admit and enroll the largest percentage of black students among what UM considers “aspirational” peer institutions, such as Duke University, New York University and Harvard University.

“To accomplish this ambitious task, I have asked Enrollment Management to lead these efforts through both strategic planning and recruitment enhancement,” he said.

This goal was specifically outlined in the report from the task force, where the aim was to increase UM’s 8 percent of black students in spring 2015 to 10 percent, the number that leads the nation.

Also by the suggestion of the task force, Frenk wrote that UM will begin actively seeking out, recruiting and hiring black faculty in order to better represent the diversity in the student body. To do this, the university will implement a multiyear hiring and retention plan. Currently, 4 percent of all UM faculty and staff are black.

“Representation in the classroom is an important piece of the college experience, not just within the student body but within our faculty. The diversity of our student body should be reflected in our faculty,” said Frenk in the report.

The creation of a prominent, visible, central office for the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA) was listed as an “actionable” recommendation in the task force’s report. Frenk said the university is searching for a location that fits those qualities to make MSA an easily accessible resource on campus.

“The Task Force was unanimous in asserting the critical role of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA) in shaping the student experience, particularly for students of color,” he said.

Frenk also wrote “additional resources” were allocated to the office to facilitate the continuation of services that abet the education and advancement of students of color.

MSA will report to Student Affairs as of Jan. 1, 2016. The newly formed standing committee will report to Executive Vice President and Provost Thomas LeBlanc. Its duties are to research and incorporate educational strategies into campus programming to open discussion about diversity and inclusion. The committee will also analyze ways to advance education around topics related to diversity.