Recommendations From the Michigan Student Study
study of the magnitude of the Michigan Student Study (MSS)
is done, large amounts of data are generated. However, beyond
the numbers and quantitative aspects of this project, MSS
researchers, over the period of a decade, have had the opportunity
to interview hundreds of students, faculty and staff; and
share perspectives with other researchers and institutions.
Moreover, countless hours of discussions have occurred among
members of a multicultural and diverse team that represented
a variety of personal and academic interests and life experiences.
purpose of the following information is to share selected
recommendations with a wider audience with the hopes that
additional discussion will generate programs, strategies,
ideas, and best practices which are appropriate to specific
institutional types – no matter where they are along
the strategic diversity planning spectrum. Bear in mind that
the focus of this study was to examine the impact of institutional
racial and ethnic diversity on students. To that end, the
subsequent recommendations reflect our commitment to that
Institutional Planning Involvement
reinvent the institutional diversity wheel: Re-examine those
diversity plans on the shelf. We have found that many institutions
have developed numerous strategic plans for campus diversity.
Many of these plans incorporate lofty goals and objectives,
but often fall short on funding commitment, implementation
strategies including periodic assessments, and institutional
efforts should change the institution, not just students:
Diversity and multiculturalism shouldn’t be code words
for the assimilation of students of color into the dominant
culture - this doesn’t require any systemic changes
on the part of the institution. Strategic diversity should
also reflect an institutional willingness to examine its
programs, policies, practices and procedures and how they
impact various populations. How does campus diversity change
in charge of campus diversity planning? Diversity planning
committees have to be comprised of individuals who are responsible
for implementing changes and recommendations that emerge
from the planning efforts. Often, campuses have comprehensive
diversity planning committees whose members have no power
to implement comprehensive institutional changes.
can learn from students’ diversity initiatives: Don’t
overlook opportunities to incorporate student organizational
programming into the academic experience involving faculty
and their classes. Students devote enormous energy to planning
and implementing diversity activities with little involvement
from faculty and academic units. These efforts are often
perceived as not germane to the academic mission –
thus, potentially valuable learning opportunities are passed
is more than access and numbers: Measured success of institutional
racial and ethnic diversity has to go beyond issues of access
and increasing numbers. It must include strategies that
address persistence, retention, and disparities in graduation
rates as well as address academic success issues. Additionally,
student satisfaction over the four-year experience can strongly
reflect perceptions of the overall institutional climate.
on campus has a role: Diversity planning implementation
has to involve the entire campus. This critical task, if
it is truly an institutional priority, can’t be the
sole responsibility of a single office or delegated to one
of committed leadership: Without visible and sustained commitment
from the campus leadership, there is little likelihood that
institutional approaches to campus diversity can be effective
- make sure that the leadership knows about the successes
of your diversity activities and how they impact the strategic
diversity programs: Conduct ongoing assessments of your
diversity programs and make appropriate changes based on
these assessments. All too often programs exist for many
years without the benefit of continuous program improvements
to reflect the changing constituencies who are to benefit
from these efforts.
diversity with other campus priorities: Look for opportunities
to link diversity activities with other programs and activities
that might not have any obvious relationships with diversity
initiatives. Additionally, successful diversity programs
and initiatives often are transferable and can strengthen
other non-diversity activities on campus.
exempt any campus unit from the diversity plan: Strategic
diversity planning, in order to have sustained success,
has to touch the entire campus: Eliminate the "untouchables"
that seem to be exempted from efforts to expand and enhance
diversity opportunities throughout the campus. This can
eliminate perceptions that key units are not required to
have commitments to overall campus diversity initiatives
and are largely not involved in or impacted by these efforts.
traditions and practices? Explore the impact of institutional
traditions, customs, policies, procedures, and practices
that often pose significant barriers to achieving campus
the impact of diversity on all students: Increasingly, institutions
are being asked by our judicial system and the public to
demonstrate that campus diversity really has an impact on
students. It is essential that campuses have both longitudinal
quantitative and qualitative assessment data on how institutional
diversity efforts benefit students (while they are on campus
and years after they graduate). Too many institutions have
little data other than anecdotal stories that have little
value in demonstrating the importance and effectiveness
of diversity efforts.
of having faculty and staff of color in leadership positions:
Oftentimes, institutional diversity strategies focus on
increasing the number of students of color on campus. It
is essential that emphasis also be placed on hiring more
faculty and staff of color into leadership positions. At
the same time, institutions have to be sensitive to the
fact that campus diversity is everyone’s business
and that faculty and staff of color should not be the sole
bearers of campus diversity efforts.
of diversity priorities with institutional mission: Diversity
priorities should be aligned with the institutional mission.
Otherwise, campus diversity efforts can be disconnected
from the mission, and easily viewed as not important to
achieve successes in the overall mission.
the importance of diversity to the campus community: Most
institutions have lofty statements proclaiming their support
for campus diversity. However, lack of clear communication
or mixed messages to the campus community can convey the
message that diversity is merely tolerated. How do campuses
introduce the importance of campus diversity to new students
and faculty? What impact does diversity have on the curriculum
and academic priorities? How are diversity successes and
achievements celebrated and communicated to the campus and
diversity among students is complicated: Recognize the complexity
of campus diversity - especially the interrelationship of
equity/social justice issues and institutional efforts to
demonstrate that diversity represents a benefit to all students.
To have successful campus diversity, an institution must
address both goals.
diversity misperceptions that students have: Tackle campus
myths about diversity - especially racial and ethnic diversity.
Additionally, campuses have to move beyond soft diversity
programs (feel good activities) that really don’t
result in systemic institutional changes and in many cases,
reinforce stereotypes that students might have about different
of housing and co-curricula activities to student diversity:
Students indicate that much learning occurs outside of the
classroom and that the resident hall is the place where
students learn to interact with each other in a natural
hold the administration responsible for addressing climate
issues: It is imperative that campuses be prompt, and where
possible proactive, in addressing racial incidents involving
students of color and other students, faculty, and staff.
Students clearly expect the campus administration to resolve
racial incidents in a timely manner. In the case of students
of color, they hold the university leadership accountable
for addressing overall campus climate issues at all levels.
The perceptions of racially charged occurrences, if not
addressed, have the potential for major and sustained conflicts
that can quickly derail gains that have been made to improve
the campus racial climate.
importance of within group diversity: There is remarkable
diversity within various student racial and ethnic groups.
Because of this, institutions should support the need for
students to learn about their own groups and explore complex
issues that might exist within different groups –
group identity and affiliation are not as simple as they
often may appear. Emphasis must be placed on equally supporting
students’ inter- and intra-group activities. Failure
to recognize and appreciate within group experience can
easily suggest that all groups are fairly monolithic in
their values and experiences. It can also introduce backlash
when some groups perceive that diversity is a code word
in graduation rates: There are often vast differences in
the graduation rates of different racial and ethnic group
on campus, and institutions rarely institute systematic
efforts that are designed to close these gaps. Graduation
parity has to be one of the key goals, and measures of success,
of campus diversity efforts. Additionally, institutions
need to have a better understanding of why these disparities
exist. Too often, anecdotal stories (e.g., they couldn’t
make it academically or adjust to the campus climate) have
a way of becoming fact and masking other major issues such
as the impact of financial concerns and climate.
units have to be major players in institutionalizing campus
diversity initiatives that impact students: Too often, academic
administrators and faculty have little involvement or roles
in institutional diversity efforts. This lack of involvement
can leave the impression that campus diversity initiatives
only pertain to students and student affairs units. Success
with overall institutional efforts can only be achieved
when academic units are an integral part of the campus diversity
of Informal Faculty Contact: Having access to faculty –
and good mentoring relationships and opportunities –
is extremely important to students of color. Students of
color often cite having great difficulties and frustrations
in developing mentoring and informal relationships with
faculty and express feelings of being devalued and not respected.
This problem is further compounded where there is an absence
of faculty of color.
support for campus diversity: It is essential that institutions
seek external support from alumni, donors and the corporate
community. These external groups are often overlooked as
potential supporters of, and contributors to, campus diversity
efforts. They can be powerful allies in fostering support
for overall campus diversity initiatives. On the other hand,
campuses often overlook the critical need to educate these
populations on the importance of campus diversity and how
these efforts benefit society in general.