As the U.S. Supreme Court weighs two critical cases that aim to outlaw the consideration of race in college and university admissions, I’m reminded of our University’s fight over the same issue some 20 years ago. One of the proudest moments I’ve had as an alum is watching as my alma mater fought for the benefits of diversity in education — for all.
Our University has continued its unwavering and outspoken commitment to the issue by supporting Harvard University and the University of North Carolina in the pending Supreme Court case through an amicus brief.
While the Supreme Court upheld U-M’s admissions practices that considered race as one factor among many in 2003, Michigan voters outlawed the practice with the passage of Proposal 2 in 2006.
“The University continues to believe that maintaining a diverse student body has compelling educational benefits; and, as set forth below, since 2006, U-M has made exceptional efforts to attain diversity, broadly defined, without consideration of race. Nevertheless, despite the University’s extraordinary efforts, minority enrollment fell sharply in the wake of Proposal 2,” the University wrote in support of Harvard and UNC.
“U-M’s experience thus represents a ‘natural experiment’ in race-neutral admissions this court should consider in determining whether alternatives are available to public institutions of higher education,” it writes. “That experience demonstrates that the limited consideration of race, as one factor among many in a holistic and individualized admissions program, is necessary to attain those educational benefits of student-body diversity.”
As this term’s court ruling looms, what I know is this: U-M’s bold leadership is both right and business savvy. Truly, the best work and the best teams I’ve encountered professionally had one thing in common: diversity.
As an employment law litigator, I deeply valued attorney teams that were diverse; they best advised my company on cultural considerations that sparked, or could spark lawsuits or U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charges, by providing a lens on the experience and trauma associated with bias and stereotypes. Later, as an inclusion, diversity, and corporate social responsibility leader, my team’s deep diversity led to compelling insights on how we measured inclusive leadership and equity and developed training; we used their diverse perspectives to educate and drive accountability for the experiences of underrepresented communities. What resulted? Game-changing innovations and impact through metrics, programming, and branding.
When diverse perspectives from diverse talent are baked into a company’s go-to-market strategy, business wins. What’s more, we grow in how we connect and respect each other. These outcomes don’t just benefit some — they benefit us all.
Heritage Month Celebrations
As Black History Month comes to a close, I wanted to share some of the inspirational and impactful activities we held in February.
At Camp Michigania, we held our first-ever Black History Month Getaway. We had an energized group of first-time campers. Camp Director James McRae says, “The energy and vibes were amazing!”
On Feb. 20, I had the privilege of joining U-M’s Chief Diversity Officer, Tabbye Chavous, and U-M Black Alumni’s Lanie Dixon in an hourlong conversation, “Going Deep on Diversity: Insights on U-M Today.” We talked about the campus climate today and how alums can help foster diversity on campus.
And we’re excited about our first Black History Month travel excursion next year: the Afro-Cuba experience. More to come!
Women’s History Month kicks off in March and we’re heading back to Camp Michigania for a Women’s Wellness Weekend on March 24-26. This community-building weekend will include educational opportunities as well as recreation and relaxation. Participants will have the chance to hear from U-M faculty, partake in a wine tasting, take in the beauty of northern Michigan, and participate in activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, rock polishing, and more.
Corie Pauling, ’93, is the president and CEO of the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan.