BY STEPHANIE COSBY
Chancellor Daniel Little spoke to hundreds of students on Wednesday, Feb. 1 about inclusion, tuition dollars, campus development and more at the Student Town Hall Meeting hosted by UM-Dearborn Student Government (SG). The SG committee, chaired by Senator Rima Rida, provided a lunch, an exchange with Chancellor Little, shirts, and a raffle.
Student Body President David Knezek opened the forum, calling it a “unique and important exchange between students and staff.” This chance to engage with higher level university staff “is a luxury that larger universities don’t have,” Knezek said.
Diversity and Inclusion
Chancellor Little focused much of his speech on the importance of not only diversity, but inclusion. He thinks UM-Dearborn has done a great job at “broadening access to higher education” and that we must now seek to foster “genuine inclusiveness.”
Chancellor Little quoted Scott Page, a past Conversation on Race speaker who said, “any group becomes smarter when it has diversity of viewpoint and opinion within the group.” Chancellor Little emphasized that, “when people come together for a shared purpose from multiple perspectives, they do a better job” of solving the issue at hand.
While Chancellor Little is proud of UM-Dearborn’s successes, he urged students to look outward. “There is an awful lot of evidence of willingness to seek political advantage by dividing people,” he said of current American politics. “We need to work hard against division,” he said. “Racism is not acceptable.”
“We’re not in a post-racial society. We can’t ignore the lingering effects of disadvantage that our society has created,” he said. He shared that while the average white household wealth amounts to $75,000, that of a black household averages at $7,500. “If you favor democracy, you really have to stand up for inclusion in national politics as much as in our University,” he said.
UM-Dearborn’s plans for the future
Chancellor Little stated that the University’s priorities in the next several years are student housing, divesting the Henry Ford Estate, and renovating the Science Building.
With on-campus housing, “we’ll be able to recruit more broadly,” Chancellor Little said. UM-Dearborn students tend to come from within a 35-40 mile radius, but on-campus housing will allow the University to recruit students from all over Michigan, the nation, and the world. “We’re already one of the most diverse campuses in the country. We will be more so in the future,” he said.
Chancellor Little joked that our current science labs are “inferior to many high school labs” and that the new plans are “cutting edge” and “will make science more accessible.” The project will require a $30 million capital outlay, which has been promised to the University.
He also mentioned that the long-closed CASL Annex will be brought down in the next couple of years.
Tuition Dollars and Budget Concerns
Michigan universities have been dealing with the higher education financial crisis long before the rest of the nation’s schools were recently hit. According to Chancellor Little, UM-Dearborn has lost 22% of its funding since 2000. He says the University has “coped incredibly well” with these decreases, thanks in large part to the Budget and Financial Offices as well as the decisions of chancellors and provosts.
Little acknowledged that “tuition increases are painful for students but affordable” and pointed to the University’s extensive financial aid system as a source of help. “We literally cannot provide the quality of education you expect and require without a rise in tuition,” he said, as the only alternatives are slashing faculty size and class offerings. He stated the University will work to make sure future increases remain affordable.
Chancellor Little likened the University of Michigan as a whole to a ship in heavy weather. He said UM has “readjusted sails and repositioned its course” and that sailing will be smoother as we move forward. He anticipates hard times, but not any harder than we have dealt with.
“I think we’ve passed through the worst time in loss of state funding,” Chancellor Little concluded. “The next ten years will be much better.”