Student activists at the University of Michigan are demanding that school officials provide them with a designated campus space solely “for Black students and students of color to organize and do social justice work.”
The off-putting demand is one of several lodged by UM activist group Students4Justice, which has ramped up demonstrations over the past month in an effort to make school officials meet their demands, The College Fix reported. In a newly launched petition, the student group also took aim at university President Mark Schlissel, attacking his less-than-perfect leadership and failure to address concerns over diversity and inclusion on campus.
“Your lackluster leadership has continued for too long,” the petition reads. “When students marched to your house in the middle of the night following an attack and hate crime that threatened to kill members of our campus community, we expected you to lead us with strength. … You have not put in the necessary work and effort into improving our campus, and until you do, it is a disservice to students to hear you say, ‘I feel helpless.’ ”
“If we as an institution are truly committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, where is your creativity for making the things you say you value a reality?” it continued.
The student organization’s request for a nonhites-only space to organize social justice efforts comes amid the university’s plans to construct a $10-million multicultural center geared toward African-Americans and other nonwhite students. While the center will be open to students of all backgrounds, it was built at the request of student group “Being Black at the University of Michigan,” which argued that Black students were being marginalized because the original multicultural center they used was located on the far perimeter of campus, according to The Campus Fix.
In their demand letter, Students4Justice members asserted that the new student center just wasn’t enough “because we want a space solely dedicated to community organizing and social justice work specifically for people of color.”
“… We want documentation of past, current and future student activism and this should be a permanent space that is staffed and has resources for students to organize and share resources,” the letter continued.
The student activists’ request for a nonwhite-only safe space has ruffled a few feathers, however. The Michigan Review newspaper, which first reported the controversial demand, blasted the student group for wanting their own separate space and likened it to “de-facto segregation.”
“The same organization that criticizes the University for failing to create ‘an environment that engages in diversity, equity and inclusion,’ is calling upon the University to undermine these ideals by facilitating a sort of de facto segregation?” the Review wrote. “One where space and resources are designated for students based solely on the color of their skin?”
“To advocate for the ideals of diversity, equity and inclusion, while simultaneously calling upon the University to sanction these spaces on campus is both unprincipled and laughably regressive,” the article continued.
The College Fix reported that the student group’s demands were originally made last fall but were re-submitted to university officials in late January following a string of racially charged incidents on campus. The group also requested additional support for marginalized students, increased affirmative action of “Black, Arab and other POC in tenured professors” and an effective system of alerting students to “bias incidents,” among other things.
So far, the Students4Justice petition calling for Schlissel to meet their demands has received 142 signatures out of a goal of 200. In addition to the petition, the group previously held a campus sit-in, as well as a silent protest when prospective students came to visit.