The Michigan Mandate: Promise and Progress
Ronald J. Lomax, Thomas E. Moore and Charles B. Smith
The University Record, April 17, 1995

During the 1993-94 academic year, University of Michigan President James J. Duderstadt presented to the University community the Michigan Agenda, a plan for increasing the representation of women and others within the professoriate. Those responsible for meeting the goals of the Agenda should be guided by experiences gained with the Michigan Mandate. The purpose of this brief commentary is to review the background of the Mandate, to assess progress with the recruitment and retention of faculty of color since the Mandate was first proposed, and to discuss some lessons that might have been learned during the years that the Mandate has been before the University community.

Background. When James J. Duderstadt became President of the University of Michigan in 1988, he committed himself, his administration and the University to the Michigan Mandate, a blueprint for fundamental change in the ethnic composition of the University community. One major objective of the Mandate was to increase by the year 2000 the representation of persons of color within the professoriate so that the proportion of such individuals would correspond more closely to their proportion in the population of the State of Michigan and the United States of America. At the beginning of the 1989-1990 academic year, Charles Vest, appointed by President Duderstadt to serve as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, asked his faculty advisory committee, the Senate Assembly Academic Affairs Advisory Committee, to devise approaches to address the problem of underrepresentation of persons of color within faculty ranks.

After an intensive study, the Academic Affairs Advisory Committee recommended that the University administration create a position for a person or persons within the Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs who would do the following: (i) monitor the recruitment activities of the various schools and colleges; (ii) assist the colleges and schools to seek out and recruit potential faculty of color; (iii) establish liaisons with other institutions to collect and exchange information on graduate students of color who might be seeking faculty positions; (iv) fund visits of attractive candidates to the campus and make regular recruiting visits to other campuses; (v) provide mentoring for new and current faculty of color; (vi) monitor the progress of faculty of color once inside the University; and (vii) assist the various schools and colleges to reassess their criteria for hiring and promotion of all faculty.

The Committee was convinced that only by obtaining the strong support and active involvement of the University’s faculty could the objectives of the Michigan Mandate be attained. The Committee therefore recommended that a committee of faculty members (excluding departmental chairs and deans) be created to monitor the efforts of the various schools and colleges to recruit and retain faculty of color. Shortly after the Committee sent its report and recommendations to the Provost, Charles Vest left the University to become President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Almost immediately after becoming Provost, Vest’s successor, Gilbert R. Whitaker, Jr., former Dean of the School of Business Administration at the University of Michigan, responded to the report and recommendations of the Academic Affairs Advisory Committee. In an October, 1990, memorandum to the Committee, the new Provost advised the Committee that "we are entering into a period of constrained financial resources and any proposed additions in administrative personnel must be viewed with concern." "More importantly," he continued, "many of the initiatives you have identified in your proposal are currently in place or can be addressed within existing structures. For example, President Duderstadt and I have recently established a committee, consisting of the second-highest ranking official in each academic unit, to review progress on diversity objectives and to discuss and formulate policies to implement them." He assured the Committee that "I intend to monitor closely the search and hiring policies and practices of the units with respect to minorities and women candidates....The Deans will be held accountable for the progress of their units and I fully expect to be held accountable for the University’s progress in this area." With respect to the issue of retention the Provost wrote:

Retention of minority and female faculty is a serious issue. However, it is also a two-edged sword. That is, while we hope that our faculty find the University of Michigan to be a nurturing, stimulating, positive place, considerations of individual professional development and personal preferences are sometimes overriding factors in decisions to leave. I hope that you would agree that we would not want to have faculty here who are not actively sought after by other outstanding institutions. By the same token, I think you would agree that we do not want faculty to leave for the wrong reasons. Thus, in his memorandum the Provost replaced the suggestion that faculty should be responsible for overseeing the recruitment and retention of faculty of color with a system in which responsibility was vested in "the second highest ranking official in each academic unit," and suggested that the Committee’s recommendations for administrative initiatives to promote the recruitment and retention of faculty of color might be either unnecessary or too expensive. He personally assured his advisory committee, however, that progress would be made.

Evaluation of the success of the Michigan Mandate. In the Spring of 1993, the Senate Assembly’s Committee for a Multicultural University, a committee advisory to the Vice Provost for Academic and Multicultural Affairs (originally the Vice Provost for Minority Affairs), decided to evaluate the climate on the campus of the University of Michigan for faculty of color, and as part of their study decided to include an unprecedented and in-depth evaluation of the success of the recruitment and retention efforts before and after the commitment of the University by its President to the Michigan Mandate. In December, 1994, the Committee submitted its report to the Senate Assembly. Some of the major demographic findings of that report are as follows:

The Committee for a Multicultural University also carried out a survey regarding the work environment to which two hundred faculty of color responded. At that time there were 544 full-time, tenure-track faculty members in the group that was surveyed. For various reasons, not everyone who was surveyed responded, but the convergence of opinion on a number of the issues lends credence to the representativeness of the data. A few findings of the survey related to recruitment and retention of faculty of color follow.

Although many of the respondents rated both the University's and their departments' efforts in recruitment as moderately good or better, 63% of the Black women and 60% of Hispanic women rated the efforts of the University between poor and moderate. These two groups were even more critical of the efforts of their departments. Twenty percent of the Black women and 11% of the Hispanic women rated the efforts of their departments as poor.

Views of the respondents with regard to the retention of minority faculty were more variable, both in terms of the contrast between the University as a whole versus individual departments, and among groups of respondents. Two-thirds (66%) of the Black women rated the performance of the University between poor (23%) and moderately good, whereas only 14% rated the University’s performance at the moderately good level or above. None in this group rated the University’s performance as outstanding. A similar proportion (67%) of Hispanic women rated the University’s performance between poor and moderately good. Sixty-two percent of the Black men also rated the performance of the University between poor and moderately good. With regard to retention, negative views on the role of departments were more widely divergent; and none of those surveyed ranked their departments as outstanding.

Barriers to recruitment and retention. An extensive literature review by the Committee for a Multicultural University revealed that other academic institutions had experiences with the recruitment and retention of faculty of color similar to those of the University of Michigan. The Committee concluded that there were certain widely held "myths" that constituted barriers to the effective recruitment and subsequent retention of faculty of color. Four of these "myths" were that

Conclusions. A few conclusions might be drawn from the seven years of experience at the University of Michigan with the Michigan Mandate that might be of value as we enter the era of the Michigan Agenda for women. We agree with the sentiment expressed by Provost Whitaker when he wrote in the Other Voices column of the Ann Arbor News on June 24, 1994, that "current faculty play a major role in hiring new faculty. The administration can do a great deal to support the hiring and promotion of faculty of color, but in the end the recruitment of faculty is done by the faculty themselves." Programs with goals such as those of the Michigan Mandate and the Michigan Agenda require the shared commitment and responsibility of University faculty and administrators if they are to be successful.

Reference

"The Quality of the Climate for Minority Faculty at the University of Michigan. A Report and Recommendations by the Committee for a Multicultural University", Committee Chair, Rashid L. Bashshur, report accepted by the University of Michigan Senate Assembly, December 13, 1994; recommendations adopted by the University of Michigan Senate Assembly, January 20, 1995.


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