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President Schlissel, Regents, and the Administration of the University of Michigan:
- The University has continuously shown its allegiance and dedication to “defend” the right to Freedom of Speech, but fails at providing and promising safety for students of color. The safety of students should not come as an afterthought, it should be a priority. The active stance that the University has taken to ensure others’ their right to Freedom of Speech, such as refusing to erase the harmful islamophobic messaging, should be comparable to the active measures the university is taking to protect its students of color.
There are issues that are impacting us right now, every day, and yet the University has remained stagnant in waiting on a strategic plan that isn’t doing anything for us right now. There are students that are impacted by the hateful actions of other students on our campus, and there is no concrete addresses from the administration. Your statements are two days late and come after the labor of six hundred plus students speaking out about it. You failed to mention the events that occurred at EMU, fifteen minutes away, that also greatly affected students at this university and in our greater community. You also failed to acknowledge the murders and the current state of the country. Black people are being murdered by the police every day, and the national guard just recently enforced a police state in North Carolina.
Frankly, actions by the administration have felt disingenuous. They often are reactionary to student mobilization, including the most recent efforts by the administration to release statements. The University of Michigan’s DEI plan was conveniently announced after the incident at the University of Missouri, and after Harvard and Yale’s commitments to increasing funding for diversity.
Efforts to have Safe Spaces for students of color to grieve and react to harmful, racist, messages were overrun with white students who did not allow for the space to remain safe. There were so many students that were more concerned with their freedom to harm others in the space, rather than students that could voice their fears and anxieties while being on campus. The student town hall meetings that were held regarding the DEI were not productive because there were no spaces for marginalized folx to safely communicate their thoughts and ideas as those targeted by hatred on this campus. By having spaces available for all students, including those that cause harm, this serves as an exclusionary tactic because it effectively silences marginalized voices out of fear.
Sharing the stories of students of color to create the DEI reinforces the idea within academia that students who have marginalized identities need to be continuously retraumatized for the consumption and education of other students and faculty. Instead of creating spaces for students to share their hardships, create spaces for open conversation where you are listening to our voices and implementing practices that show your concerns for our safety. Be proactive and not reactive. An example of this is creating spaces for only students of color to engage within the community and contribute to both the DEI, and our current campus climate.
We are the top public school in the country, yet we lag when it comes to truly creating an environment that engages in diversity, equity and inclusion. These words mean more than a few statements, open dialogues for all students to attend, and a promise to give money to the cause.
These are our concrete demands as black students and other students of color for President Schlissel:
- Acknowledge our humanity and address us--Black folx and other people of color on campus--in person.
- Create a space for black students and other people of color without white students, before the Launch of the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Plan on Thursday, October, 6th at 9:00 am. This space needs to be accessible (both physically and temporally) for the students that want to be addressed by you.
- Declare solidarity with us as black students and students of color, as well as with those same students at Eastern Michigan University and other schools in the nation who experience racism and anti-Blackness on campus.
- Address the current events regarding police brutality and recognize how that impacts Black students, faculty and staff in our personal, professional and academic lives.
- Construct more office hours and time for students to voice their concerns to the President directly.
- Continuously provide safe spaces for both Black students and other students of color to talk about the DEI plan as it’s being implemented without white students.
- Create a unique short-term emergency plan with Black and POC student input made paramount--meant to address and redress issues within the next year.
- Rename buildings to reflect students on campus and also to acknowledge the harm that the people the buildings are named after have caused.
- Create a protocol that is more accessible for the entire campus community to be informed about bias incidents. We have the right to know about these incidents.
- Fulfill the seven demands of the BBUM movement that was presented two years ago.
- Create a permanent designated space on central campus for black students and students of color to organize, and do social justice work. This is not the same as Trotter Multicultural Center, because we want a space solely dedicated to community organizing and social justice work specifically for people of color.
- Display a Black Lives Matter flag, as a physical symbol of solidarity for black students on campus. Atop other clear policy changes that we are demanding, this is the recognition that students have said that they need in order to feel safe on this campus. Black Lives Matter is not a political issue - it is a human rights issue, fighting for the humanity of Black folx.
We look forward to the University’s cooperation and solidarity in supporting Black people on this campus. The great Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” President Schlissel, Regents, and Administration, which side will you choose?
Students 4 Justice
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