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March 31, 2005 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-03-31

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The Michigan Daily - Thursday, March 31, 2005 - 5A

Diversity's demons

"I'm at the gym, and every race is up there,
but it never goes past that game of basket-
ball. It's never like, 'Hey, want to hang out,
want to come to this party?' It just ends
right there."
- Engineering junior Rich Gate, who lives
in East Quad Residence Hall, on the social
boundaries of race

"The blacks stay with
the blacks, and the
whites stay with the
- LSA sophomore Meta Brown,
who lives in Couzens Residence
Hall, on the reality of dorm life

"Just look
at the lunch
- LSA freshman
Matt Case from
Bursley Residence
Hall, on evidence
of the racial divide
in residence halls

The numbers at the bottom of this page reveal
no great conspiracy. They tell us what so many
have spoken of in whispers and hushed tones -
that we are a campus divided, segregated by our
prejudices and by the failure of the very admin-
istration that championed diversity to create true
The University is clearly in a dif- The Uni
ficult position. Until a critical mass
of underrepresented minority stu- must Co
dents is achieved, equally distrib- itself to
uting students of color throughout the ugly
the residence halls would isolate
the individual and create a situa- Of Segre
tion in which he would constantly - racism
have to prove himself to his peers. intoleran
But while the University should a ainst
keep this in mind, creating clusters
of safe places for minority students O color.
fails to address the underlying
truth - It is not North Campus, or the learning
communities, but the entire University that should
be a safe place for minorities. There should be no
residence hall, no fraternity or sorority house, no
classroom that is not a safe place for a student of
color at the University.
By focusing on ways to shield students of
color from the white majority, the University has
implicitly acknowledged the continued existence
of racism on campus. By centering discussions
of diversity around students of color, the Univer-
sity ignores the fact that race is not a minority
issue, but a University issue.
If there is ever to be racial integration on
this campus, the University must commit itself
to attacking the ugly roots of segregation
- racism and intolerance against students of
color. The factors that drive minority students
to the margins and create separate communi-
ties must be examined, understood and ulti-
mately eradicated.

These numbers are important because they
prove to us what can be so difficult to see - that
racism affects whites just as much as it affects
people of color. White students are largely being
denied the opportunity to interact with people of
different races and cultures. It is the University's
responsibility to help white students understand
that racism is the problem of every single student


on this campus. It must encour-
age white students to take an
active role in creating a commu-
nity that is a safe place for stu-
dents of color.
None of this, however, sug-
gests the student body is beyond
reproach. Instead of blaming
campus segregation on students
of color who sit together in the
dining hall, students would do
well to question the role of the
University in maintaining the
walls society has erected. If

they are not already, they should become aware
of the circumstances that can cause students of
color to retreat into racial comfort zones. Tak-
ing a trip to an all-black fraternity house, for
example, might shed some light on what minor-
ity students experience on a daily basis at the
Racism has robbed us all blind. Until we
acknowledge this fact, there can be no prog-
ress, and certainly no integration. As students
at one of the best public schools in the country,
we have an obligation to question the status quo.
It is within our power to create a future where
segregation is not equated with normalcy. We
must demand from the University what is right-
fully ours - the opportunity to live together, to
grow together and to learn from each other in the
school we all call home.
Gay is an RCfreshman and a member
of the Daily's editorial board.

Alyssa Trotsky and Samantha Klaiman eat down the table from their peers in Alice Lloyd Residence Hall's dining area. 18.3 per-
cent of Alice Lloyd's population is made up of underrepresented minorities. Underrepresented minorities are defined as blacks,
Hispanics, American Indians and Alaskan Natives.

Breaking the barrier

Vera Baits Residence Hall


resented Minority

The subject of campus segregation raises many complex
and delicate questions that most of the student population
tends to subconsciously avoid. While it may be easier to
look the other way, it is time for University administra-
tors and students to move beyond the status quo and delve
deeper and more honestly into this issue. Segregation is
an unfortunate but undeniable reality on this campus.
The evidence lies in everything from dorm life to night
life, the Greek system to cafeteria dinner tables. I first
understood the magnitude of this issue while living with
my black roommate freshman year, when I was given the
privilege to see first hand the possibilities that exist when
diversity and integration are truly achieved.
At a University that strives to be a pillar of academic
diversity, campus segregation seems strikingly self-defeat-
ing. The University is a passionate advocate for affirmative
action, and University President Mary Sue Coleman has
made a concerted effort during her tenure to get minori-
ties to apply and attend. While the University seemingly
understands the value and necessity of a diverse campus,
once students settle in, separate corners are resumed. The
irony and loss here is obvious. The questions are: What

causes this separation, and more importantly, what can
be done about it?
The statistics have proven what we all knew to be
true: Certain dorms and areas of the campus have a
higher percentage of underrepresented minorities
than others. University Housing demographics show
a higher percentage on North Campus - 17.4 percent
- compared with the Hill's substantially lower 13.3
percent. Two dorms on campus, Baits and Markley,
serve as prime examples-of this separation. Baits has an
underrepresented minority population of 20.2 percent,
while Markley has an embarrassingly low 6.7 percent
- and there are no residential learning communities to
account for this difference.
Yet not all the statistics are as extreme as one may
have thought. The difference between underrepresent-
ed minorities on the Hill and North Campus is only 4.1
percent - much lower than the common perception.
Who would have guessed that Alice Lloyd houses the
most underrepresented minorities of any dorm on the
Hill, or that only 9 percent of Bursley Hall is black? We
all know the stereotypes surrounding the dorms; Lloyd
is not known to be particularly diverse, and most stu-
dents believe North Campus houses the majority of the

minority population. However, these perceptions are
simply not in line with the statistics. And so the ques-
tion arises: Why does the campus feel more segregated
than it actually is?
The answer is self-segregation. Students naturally
gravitate toward people of their own race and ethnicity,
and despite the many opportunities for integration on this
campus - the "comfort zone" prevails. The benefits of a
diverse campus are lost.
The issue here is twofold: The Uniyersity has a
responsibility to combat racial segregation in the dorms
by making sure the housing placement of its freshman
class is balanced. But it is up to us, the students, to
really make a significant change. It is easier to remain
inside a racial or ethnic bubble, but it is definitely not
as rewarding. Isn't education the reason we are here?
We have so much to learn from one another, why settle
for the norm of racial clustering? We must strive to take
advantage of the diversity on this campus, despite the
obvious challenges and obstacles that stand in the way.
We will all be the better for it.
Dibo is an LSA and School of Music sophomore
and a member of the Daily's editorial board.

Striking a balance

The Michigan Daily reported on a very
important topic in its recent articles, Living the
Critical Mass (03/23/2005), that begin to exam-
ine some significant questions: How diverse
really are University residence halls? To what
extent do University residence halls contribute to
the University's mission of promoting a diverse
educational experience that will lead to lifelong
benefits? These are complex questions to tackle
in a short space, but I can make a few key obser-
University Housing has provided leadership
to the University in developing and nurturing
multicultural residential communities. We offer
supportive, caring and stimulating environments

that allow students to find a balance between
maintaining their cultural and ethnic identities
at the same time they can connect and interact
on a day-to-day basis with other students who
come from very different backgrounds.
As a matter of policy and ethical principle,
University Housing does not make room assign-
ments based on race, ethnicity, religion, dis-
ability, sexual orientation or national origin. A
number of factors influence where any new stu-
dent is assigned. First, continuing students have
the opportunity to request a space anywhere in
the system that is available at the time of sign-
up. The remaining spaces are then available for
assignment of newly entering students. Other
factors that determine assignments include: Did
the student request a specific roommate? Did the

student request North Campus as first prefer-
ence for campus area? When was the application
received by Housing? Did the student apply to a
residential Michigan Learning Community?
Fundamentally, it is important for students
to feel that the residence hall they are initially
assigned to is their home, and that their home
is safe, comfortable, welcoming and inclusive.
University Housing seeks to offer its residents,
especially returning residents, many choices of
both where and with whom they will live. The
principle of providing choices - lots of them
- to University students is part of the appeal of
an institution that is as large, multifaceted and
complex as the University.
Our residential communities, we believe,
are immeasurably strengthened and enhanced

when all of our residents contribute their dif-
ferent cultural, religious, political, ethnic and
social identities as they participate in the life
and activity of the residence hall. Are we
fully there yet? No, but we keep working at it
as hard as we can.
University students come to the University
from communities that are usually far less
diverse than this campus. The University in
general, and University Housing in particu-
lar, share a central objective of preparing our
students for their future in an increasingly
global and multicultural 21st century. Our
objective is to have residential communities
that take full advantage of the outstanding
opportunities provided by the University's
ability to draw from a student body that comes

from all 50 states and from over 75 foreign
countries; from tiny rural communities to the
world's largest cities; and from the complete
spectrum of socioeconomic origins.
For University Housing, we want to have
such successfully diverse communities in our
residence halls that students - both white
and of color - choose to return for at least a
second year (Forty percent on average make
that choice). Even more importantly, we hope
our students then make similar choices for
places to live once they graduate and leave
the University and Ann Arbor.
Henry is the director of University Hous-
ing and assistant vice president for student

% 30

A breakdown of underrepresented minority distribution in the res halls

% of the dorm freshman population that is
composed of underrepresented minorites


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