UMich offers free room and board to promote social justice

The University of Michigan is hiring 20 students to promote “inclusive language” and fight “bias incidents” in exchange for free room and board.

The Diversity Peer Educators (DPE) will be hired through the UM Residential Life Office, and will be tasked with promoting social justice in the UMich dorms by hosting trainings, educational programming, and working to resolve “bias incidents.”

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Students will also promote the school’s Inclusive Language Campaign, which aims to educate student on “why certain language can be hurtful to others,” according to the program’s website. The Inclusive Language Campaign was launched in 2015 with $16,000 of taxpayer funds, according to The College Fix, and targeted words such as “insane,” “illegal immigrant,” and “I want to die.”

They will also be tasked with promoting the school’s bystander intervention program, Change It Up!, and must also enroll in a class on “creating inclusive communities.”

After a bias incident happens in the dorms, the DPEs will also be tasked with following up with the victim, and will use “restorative justice principles” to help “rebuild the community.” Students are vigorously encouraged to report bias incidents on campus, and as such, 23 incidents were reported in October alone, according to the school’s report log.

Nicola Saliendra, the Assistant Director of Diversity and Inclusion at UM, confirmed to Campus Reform in an email that 20 students will receive free room and board this year in exchange for working at least 20 hours per week.

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Applications for the program closed last week, and exceptional applicants will be invited to interview in the middle of November. If accepted, students will start in spring of 2018.

While Diversity Peer Educator programs are not new to academia, this appears to be the first “live-in” position that will be compensated with room and board. At other colleges, students recruited to promote social justice are paid close to state minimum wage (such as at Oberlin College or UCLA) or nothing at all (Rutgers University).

Campus Reform reached out to the University of Michigan to clarify whether taxpayer funds will cover the cost of free housing and board for DPEs, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

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