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Statement of National Board of Directors,
University of Michigan Alumni Association

Throughout its history, the University of Michigan has followed its democratic founding principle that a quality higher education should be available to all.

Today, outside forces challenge the University's commitment to diversity, threatening to dismantle the basis upon which our predecessors in the state of Michigan founded this institution. In the response to this challenge, the Board of Directors of the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan desires to both reaffirm its support of these principles and publicly express its commitment to the approopriateness of, need for, and unquestionable desirability of diversity.

"Michigan's claim to democracy lies in the fact that her doors are open to all who are qualified to enter," wrote Wilfred Shaw, alumni secretary, in a 1910 isse of Michigan Alumnus. "to the University there is no east, no west, no south. State, even national boundaries present no obstruction to the scattering of her instruction. But more than this worldwide invitation, implied if not extended, greater by far than this can be, is the spirit of true democracy existing among the many students gathered about her campus. Coming as they do from all parts of the world, they naturally bring worldwide ideas into conflict. Hostile as these may be in their native environment, they are fused in the melting pot of university life."

Some seven decades later, the Alumni Association continues to staunchly align itself fully alongside the University's historic commitment to "access for all." In 1982, the Association initiated its own minority recruitment efforts and in conjunction with that step, the board of directors unanimously approved a resolution that "strongly reaffirms its high priority objective of alumni and professional staff working cooperatively with University staff members to assist the University in its efforts to recruit and retain qualified underrepresented minority students in undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs of the University."

At that time, Executive Director Robert G. Forman stressed the importance of the University's minority recruitment/retention efforts in comments that hearkened back over the decades to those of his predecessor Shaw:

"This nation was founded on the premise that it would be a haven for men and women of differing, political, religious, and social views, and that it would be a land of opportunity for men and women regardless of their race, color, or creed. The founders of this nation recognized that if our republic was to work, men and women would need to be educated so that they might be capable of self-government. The University of Michigan has been a model across the country for meeting the obligations inherent in such a philosophy.

"We must guarantee that deserving men and women, regardless of their social and economic background, have the opportunity to receive the quality education that Michigan offers. Unquestionably, underrepresented minorities must be a part of this community. Their numbers should b sufficient so that others understand that this is a university open to all who deserve to be here and, more important, that the institution has a commitment which goes beyond rhetoric to see that this is accomplished."

At the time that the University of Michigan was founded, many eastern schools were still producing their graduation lists, not alphabetically or by grade-point average or some other form of academic recognition, but by listing their graduates according to the social prominence of their families.

In direct contrast, and based on principle that "religion, morality and knowledge" were indeed essential to good government and the happiness of mankind established in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, the University of Michigan was established.

Throughout the years, the University's founding principles have been buffeted by various storms. "Society is now sufficiently shaken by the antagonisms and frictions between the rich and the poor," observed U-M President James B. Angell in the midst of one such gale in 1887. "But here the rich and the poor have always sat side by side in the classroom. They have associated on terms of perfect equality. Brains and character have alone determined which should be held in the higher esteem. There is no other community in the world so wholesomely democratic as one like our body of University students."

Created by the people of the state of Michigan, the University of Michigan is a realization of the democratic ideal, "that everyone should have access to the very best", a newly-appointed U-M President Lee C. Bollinger noted in the spring of 1997. "That's about as noble as it gets in American history."

As it has throughout its own 100-year history, the separately incorporated and self-governed Alumni Association of the University of Michigan desires that its voice be counted among those who wish to be heard above those who threaten to dismantle a founding principle of this great public University and thus offers the following resolution:

In recognition and in full support of the democratic principles upon which the University of Michigan was founded; and

In recognition of the richness that diversity brings to the University of Michigan learning environment; and

In recognition of the value a well-educated, diverse society brings to our state and nation;

Be it resolved that the board of directors of the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan reaffirms its unwavering and historically held commitment to the value of a diverse University community; and

Be it further resolved that the board of directors of the Alumni Association fully supports the University's efforts to maintain and strengthen a diverse University community.

April 24, 1998

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