DEI Summit to Examine Structural Racism Amid COVID-19



The US death toll from COVID-19 has exposed racial differences in the country’s health system and other aspects of American life.

At the University of Michigan, this year’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summit, under the motto “Parallel Pandemics: Addressing Structural Racism in the Age of COVID-19”, will examine the interweaving of COVID-19 and structural racism and how their interdependence leads to one of the Solving problems must both be addressed.

According to preliminary death statistics collected by the National Center for Health Statistics in June 2021, Native Americans, Latinos, and blacks in the United States are two to three times more likely to die from COVID-19 than whites.

“The parallel pandemics of COVID-19 and structural racism have teamed up to create a moment in our nation’s history where we must decide whether our actions are to transform or replicate the past,” said Robert Sellers, vice priest for Justice and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer. “Now more than ever we have to question our current reality and decide what our future will look like at the same time.”

The DEI Summit events take place throughout October. A virtual community gathering will be held on October 11th at 10:00 am with keynote speaker Soledad O’Brien, award-winning journalist, entrepreneur and presenter of the weekly Matter of Fact TV program.

Soledad O’Brien

O’Brien is known for her work in television journalism. She has hosted news programs on CNN, MSNBC and NBC, hosted projects for Fox and A&E, and has contributed to a variety of channels including the three major broadcasters, National Geographic and PBS. O’Brien’s reporting won three Emmy Awards, two George Foster Peabody Awards, and an Alfred I. DuPont Award.

Following O’Brien’s address, Riana Anderson, Assistant Professor of Public Health, will host a panel discussion on:

  • Sydney Carr, Joint Public Policy and Political Science Ph.D. Student and President of Students of Color Rackham.
  • Valerie Kaur, activist, lawyer and author.
  • Oluwaferanmi Okanlami, assistant professor of family medicine, physical medicine, and rehabilitation, and urology at Michigan Medicine, and director of services for students with disabilities and adaptive exercise and fitness.
  • Jeff Witt, Head of Organizational Development and DEI Head of the University Library.

The ward meeting will also include brief remarks from campus officials, including Sellers, President Mark Schlissel, and Prostess Susan M. Collins.

“As a venerable public university, we have a special responsibility to serve all of humanity,” said Schlissel. “Diversity is essential for our scientific endeavors and strengthens our impact and our intellectual strength. UM has always faced the greatest problems in our society and brought about lasting changes. The challenges that lie ahead of us are complex and urgent. “

Progress report and DEI 2.0

The University’s Fifth Year Progress Report on Diversity, Justice and Inclusion will be made available to the public on October 11th on an interactive website presenting the report and its highlights.

The five-year report is the final annual report of the original five-year strategic plan for Diversity Equity and Inclusion, DEI 1.0.

“The past five years have generated experience and data that enable us to sharpen our approach and act with increased precision and skill,” said Katrina Wade-Golden, Deputy Chief Diversity Officer and implementation manager of the campus-wide DEI strategic plan.

Wade-Golden said this will be the start of a year-long evaluation process in which DEI 1.0 content and actions will be thoroughly assessed at the central and unit level to determine which actions and initiatives have worked well, which have not, and which new DEI issues deserve more attention in the future.

The findings from the evaluation period will be announced in October 2022 and serve as the basis for a one-year planning period for the university’s next DEI strategic plan, DEI 2.0. Information from the evaluation period will guide the content and implementation strategies for DEI 2.0, which will launch in October 2023.

Community recognition

The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will facilitate the gathering of the campus community to recognize the many accomplishments made over the years of UM’s five-year DEI strategic plans.

The open house event will be held at the Trotter Multicultural Center on October 11 from 3:30 PM to 7:00 PM and will include student performances, speakers, refreshments, and activities to involve students, staff, and faculty.

Other DEI summit events include a virtual slang series “Toward an Anti-Ableist Academy” on October 4th and an interdisciplinary talk on October 13th hosted by the National Center for Institutional Diversity’s anti-racism collaboration.



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