CONTROVERSY OVER UNIVERSITY OF MARYLANDíS NEW STRATEGIC PLAN
By: Amanda L. Andrei
Minority communities at the University of Maryland, College Park, MD have rallied together to speak out against the lack of diversity in UMD’s 2008 Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan maps out the University’s future goals and determines where financial and intelligence resources are allocated. In doing so, it expresses the priorities and pertinent issues of the University. Unlike its precedent in 2000, the newest plan lacks objectives and procedures for increasing the diversity at the institution.
The 2000 plan had five initiatives, the third one declaring that the University would “ensure a university environment that is inclusive as well as diverse and that fosters a spirit of community among faculty, staff, and students.” This included increasing the enrollment of minority students and faculty, as well as pursuing research in fields related to race, gender, and sexual orientation. The old plan acknowledged the importance of diversity as making it a nationally acclaimed institution of higher learning, and referred to it as “a key to its excellence.” However, in the newest draft of the plan, diversity is mentioned vaguely and insubstantially. Lee Fang, student activist, notes that “specific plans to increase undergraduate enrollment are conspicuously absent.”
While there has been considerable social and academic progress between 2000 and 2008, there are still misconceptions about the Asian American Studies (AAST) program and the APA community at UMD. For instance, sometimes Asian American Studies are confused or combined with Asian Studies, and the focus emphasizes foreign issues of being “Asian” instead of domestic ones pertinent to Asian Americans. Given that APA students constitute 14.1% of the campus population, students are in need of more faculty and staff to expand the AAST program, as well as student services such as counseling and an alumni network. With all these needs for such a fast growing demographic group, it is shocking to the community to have diversity treated as a non-priority.
The students have already drafted a detailed message campaign, which includes letters to the editors, meeting with administration, alumni involvement, and publicizing the issue online. “Too often, we [the Asian American community] are timid to take a stance because we feel the need to reach consensus within ourselves,” states Scott Siu, another student leader involved in coordinating communication among cultural organizations as well as alumni. “It’s important for students to not miss any opportunity to communicate and speak to the university.” Through a combined coalition with other minority groups, students are making it clear what they believe the Strategic Plan should contain—and consequently, what the University of Maryland should claim as its highest priorities and goals.