University of Michigan-Dearborn released findings of its 2022 Campus Climate Study on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The survey found that students generally view the UM Dearborn campus as a “welcoming” environment, although many students expressed difficulty accessing important resources, particularly in the area of food security.
According to the report, 10.2% of all UM Dearborn students and 18.8% of black UM Dearborn students identify as food insecure. Keisha Blevins in an email to The Michigan Dailychief diversity and inclusion officer at UM Dearborn, said the university has taken steps to address food insecurity.
“Our campus has been aware of the issues of student food insecurity for over a decade,” Blevins wrote. “One of the things we’ve started on our campus is to launch a Pantry of student nutritionwhich has been officially effective since 2013.”
The student food pantry is located under Support Dearbornprogram that also provides critical incident support services and a variety of medical and nutritional resources to UM Dearborn students.
In an email to The Daily, Support Coordinator in Dearborn Maddie Drury said the university is working to address food insecurity on campus, mainly through advertising the resources they provide through weekly student emails, campus flyers and various events.
“Support at Dearborn is very new and we continue to reach out to faculty, staff and coaches as referral sources,” Drury wrote. “Just as we have done for the past ten years, we continue to monitor the use of the pantry and use these numbers to drive ongoing efforts that include making sure students are aware of this resource, removing barriers, increasing hours/staffing and so on.”
Both Drury and Blevins talked about food insecurity depends on other disparitiesemphasizing the importance of also ensuring students have access to technology, legal aid and resources for physical and sexual health.
“We are also working to expand our relationships with partners in transportation support, financial assistance and child care,” Drury said. “Support Dearborn also advocates for students who are experiencing critical incidents such as illness, injury or the loss of a loved one.”
UM Dearborn student Fallin Foster, president Black Student Union on the Dearborn campus, said she finds it difficult to connect with students at a suburban campus like UM Dearborn. In an interview with The Daily, Foster noted that students were not always aware of the various resources available to them on campus.
“We’re trying to get participation and … we’ve started doing all these events,” Foster said. “It’s a suburban town and we all just come and go.”
In an interview with The Daily, Drury acknowledged the unique challenges that arise on campus, agreeing that sometimes students are only on campus for a limited amount of time.
“I think we get people who come to campus, take classes, and then go straight home,” Drury said. “So if our student union, for example, has flyers posted, maybe a student won’t see those flyers.”
To reach out to students, Drury said she explored different ways to reach out to students, including a weekly email to students that Dearborn’s support service distributes with information about resources, as well as an online portal ViktoryLink which connects students to campus organizations and events. Still, Drury said challenges remain for UM Dearborn as a commuter campus.
Foster said she hopes to see members of the UM Dearborn administration working to connect with students on a deeper level. She added that she would like the administration to build a stronger relationship of trust with the campus community before continuing to analyze the results of the campus climate study or plan DEI initiatives.
“I think (members of the administration) need to put their faces out there, be more involved on campus and get on a personal level to then gain the trust of the students,” Foster said. “I think it should start with the school staff and faculty first trying to build a relationship with the students and then putting their information out there instead of just putting it on a bulletin board.”
Foster added that she would like to interact more with new and transfer students at UM Dearborn. As a transfer student, Foster said she had to learn about the organizations and opportunities on campus on her own.
“I think there really needs to be more involvement and engagement with new students right away instead of them trying to figure it out on their own,” Foster said. “And I think we can go from there.”
Foster said she believes the results of the survey can be useful for students and student organizations, especially when considering student mental health and the ongoing effects of COVID-19. She also pointed to data from a survey where 50.7% of black student respondents said they felt “valued as an individual at UM Dearborn.”
“My goal as president of (BSU) is to try to find the other 49.3% and try to get them to be more involved and have more contact with people of their own race,” Foster said.
The university will also continue to use the survey data to form focus groups made up of students, faculty and staff to discuss the survey results. In an email to The Daily, Blevins, who wrote on behalf of herself and Pam Heatley, Equity, Civil Rights, and Title IX director and coordinator, said the administration would focus on areas of the survey where the data did not meet their goals for a “welcoming and inclusive” campus culture.
“We believe it is important not to make assumptions about what the data mean and not make decisions based on this limited information,” Blevins wrote. “For this reason, our next step is to assess and engage our community on various topics, through working groups, focus groups, existing programs or other interactions.”
Blevins said she and Heatley were encouraged by the scale of the response and the broader sentiment of respondents. Compared to UM Dearborn 2017 Campus Climate Surveythere was more identity diversity among the 2,022 respondents.
“We were pleased with the survey’s participation rates and the diversity of respondents,” Blevins wrote. “Survey responses indicate that UM Dearborn is generally rated as a ‘respectful’, ‘friendly’ and ‘welcoming’ place.”
Blevins also described the types of questions emerging from the survey that will be used to determine the extent of food insecurity on the UM Dearborn campus and the best ways to address it.
“One way to use the survey data is to compare reported cases of food insecurity with food pantry use,” Blevins wrote. “… We will look at the data and try to determine what it means in the context of our community and campus programs.”
Daily Staff Reporter Bronwyn Johnston can be reached at email@example.com.