When Central Michigan University President George Ross first came to campus in 2002 as the vice president of finance and administrative services, times were different to say the least.
Less than 4% of the student body at CMU identified as black. Almost 87% of students identified as white. No one had heard of Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray or Michael Brown. Barrack Obama had not been elected president yet.
Now 76% of the student body at CMU identify as white and 7% identify as African American. The number of international students has doubled since 2010. The black lives matter movement is gaining monument around the country. Minority students from universities across the nation, such as the University of Missouri and Ithaca College are demanding change.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise that George Ross is hosting an event to discuss diversity and inclusion on campus this Friday.
While students at CMU have not demanded administrators step down like some other universities, race-related issues has been the topic of discussion on campus.
Many students were angry about a demonstration the student government association hosted where students dressed in offensive costumes. The event was meant to educate people on culturally insensitive costumes, but many on social media didn’t agree with the method. A survey shows that more than 40% of minority students believe racism is a problem at CMU and 60% believe the university is not doing enough. The survey was both a major story in Central Michigan Life, but also discussed in the academic senate.
On a less dramatic scale, Insider‘s story on the lack of hair services for African Americans has been one of our most popular articles to date. Chuck Mahone, student government association president, told reporters on an episode of “Homo Sapiens of CMU,” that he didn’t want to just be remembered as being the first black SGA president. Student Activist Portia Brown discussed in-depth on a different episode about the rocky race relations in Mount Pleasant.
With the conversations on campus and events around the country, the CMU community needs to have direct, open and honest conversation about race.
More than 250 people have RVSP’d to Ross’s event. Others commented they plan on live streaming it. People are interested in what Ross has to say and many people are going to want to hear some plan of action.
Ross is not the only university president to host a discussion on diversity. A couple weeks ago, the University of Michigan hosted a town hall meeting on diversity moderated by the Chicago Tribune’s Clarence Page.
Michigan Radio reported that a student who identified as Chelsea questioned the University’s commitment to diversity, feeling like administrators talk a lot, but do little.
It’s doubtful Ross will say anything controversial at the luncheon, but many members of the CMU community are going to expect genuine openness.
This lunch isn’t going to change the culture of CMU overnight, but if Ross comes with a willingness to listen and ready to take action, it could be a start.
Arielle Hines is the editor of CMU Insider. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.