Roundup of Media Coverage from Make Some Noise Protest

make some noise

Here’s a roundup of links from our recent Make Some Noise protest action. The action received significant media coverage and this coverage was actually pretty good! The main difference of opinion, as usual, has to do with numbers—we estimate that about 50-60 people participated.

Michigan Daily: Students march on Fleming to protest handling of sexual misconduct [sic]

Ann Arbor News/Mlive: University of Michigan students protest college’s handling of Brendan Gibbons rape allegations

Detroit Free Press: Feds investigating U-M’s handling of Brendan Gibbons rape allegations

WXYZ Detroit: Students protest handling of sexual assault cases at University of Michigan

ESPN: U.S. Department of Education looking into Michigan Wolverines’ response to 2009 rape allegations

Bloomberg: University of Michigan probed for response to sexual assault

(Photo by Brianne Bowen for the Ann Arbor News)


“What Am I Supposed to Say to Prospective Black Grad Students?”

The following remarks were made by Austin McCoy during the Regents’ meeting on Thursday, February 20. We are publishing them here with his support.

My name is Austin McCoy. I am a 5th year graduate student and one of the organizers of the United Coalition for Racial Justice’s Speak Out. Thanks for allowing me to address you all.

“This will be the only time you see us, so you will know what it feels like to go to school here.” Two black graduate students in the department of history uttered this statement to me during our recruitment visit five years ago. Five years ago, many of you may have dismissed their sentiment. Unfortunately, their message was prescient. While I have enjoyed much professional success here, I have not escaped the isolation and exploitation that many black students face. Like many black students here, I am often one of a few in classes and university-sponsored social gatherings. I have been asked to speak for my race in class. I have experienced upsetting interactions with non-black professors and students around issues of race. I can count on one hand the amount of black students I have taught while GSI-ing history classes—five to be exact. That means I have taught one black student a year.

As a black graduate student, I’ve had to perform uncompensated, and often emotionally-taxing, hidden labor. I’ve had to serve as the “racial middle-man” in my department at times—a critic of some white graduate students and professors, an explainer of the nuances of race to white, and some non-black, graduate students, and a sounding board for students of color. I do so to protect myself (a black man on campus cannot hide from racism on campus) and because I believe in trying to change my environment. Yet, I consciously perform these tasks at the risk of professional and personal isolation.  And, to be clear, I do not always ask to perform this labor—these experiences and roles have found me. The color of my skin attracts these roles.

My experience is a reflection of the overall decline in black enrollment over the last 17 years. My experience reflects the point that as black enrollment declines, so does the racial climate. I welcome the President’s and Martha Pollack’s admission of the university’s shortcomings. But I share the skepticism of the previous speakers from BAMN. History suggests that the university is not a leader of diversity—black enrollment only reached 9 percent once in the last forty years. Sure, we have more black faces in higher places in the University. UM has placed more black faces in higher places in the world, but isolation and marginalization remains.

This is why over a thousand of us packed the library for the Speak Out on Tuesday night. I am disappointed by an administration that uses limits as a crutch. That’s so uninspiring. The Prop 2 argument is also misleading. Black enrollment began declining in the late 1990s, not just after 2006. This administration also likes to take credit for the student’s, faculty’s, and staff’s political labor. Students, faculty, and staff have been on the frontline of the struggle, in which I am a newcomer. This is why it should be up to students, faculty, and staff to devise solutions to the problem of climate.

So, my question to you would be, “What am I supposed to say to prospective black graduate students when they visit in March?” Questions about climate, enrollment, and the lack of a critical mass of African Americans often arise in our discussions. Am I supposed to lie to them to cover for the administration’s failure? I would love to tell them that I attend a university that wants to create a vision of diversity that does not obscure problems for particular groups. I would love to be able to tell them that we transformed the university into a more inclusive and just place from the bottom-up. But, anyone who knows me knows I cannot defend the university’s lie and its anemic response. I don’t care to be a victor. I care to be a truth-teller. I would be compelled to tell them about how life as a black graduate student could be isolating and emotionally and psychologically taxing. I would have to tell them that they would have few opportunities to engage black students in the classroom as a GSI and a graduate student. I would be compelled to warn them of what’s to come—isolation and marginalization.

Speak Out: An Opportunity

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Guest post by the United Coalition for Racial Justice (UCRJ)

The Diag Freeze Out and the Black Student Union’s #BBUM Twitter campaign reignited a movement for racial justice at the University of Michigan.  These actions challenged the administration to deliver a swift and long-reaching series of proposals, ranging from Provost Pollack’s announcement of new diversity initiatives, to the administration’s talks with the BSU, to its $300,000 pledge to renovate the Trotter Multicultural House.  The University has also established a new committee to confront issues of campus climate and enrollment.  But forty years of such committees have failed to fulfill the University’s 1970 promise to increase African American enrollment to 10%.  This failure points to the insufficiency of university bureaucratic solutions which deliver change from the top down, rather than empowering the student body to collectively build an inclusive university.  The success of the racial justice movement at the University of Michigan depends upon our grassroots efforts to educate, strategize, build coalitions, and offer creative solutions.  The University has stated that it is “listening.”  Now is our opportunity to speak out.

This opportunity is why we, the United Coalition for Racial Justice (UCRJ), are inviting everyone to participate in a Speak Out on February 18th, from 8 PM to 8 AM in the Shapiro Undergraduate Library.  We are a broad coalition of undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and staff which draws its membership from existing student organizations and streams of activism.  We seek to broaden the current racial climate conversation to include the concerns of other underrepresented minorities as well as those of graduate students, staff, and faculty members.

Moreover, we hope to provide a space in which students, faculty, and staff can come together to build long-lasting coalitions which will ensure the sustainability of the current racial justice movement.  Currently, we see a chasm between leading student organizations and unaffiliated students, undergraduates and graduate students, and between various student organizations.  This gap hampers our ability to apply coordinated and sustained pressure on the administration to change the university climate. These gaps also create cycles of historical amnesia due to turnover in classes of students, eboards, and student organizations.  More cohesive activist coalitions would provide a needed check against closed, top-down administrative decision-making.

Our Speak Out will also provide a space for students of color to come together and discuss their experiences navigating the campus climate. Our event combines the testimonial power of the open-mic “speak out” with the power of the Civil Rights-era “sit in.”  The first portion of the event – the Demonstration – begins with an open-mic, followed by a keynote address by Dr. Barbara Ransby.  Dr. Ransby was a founding member of UM’s United Coalition Against Racism (UCAR), which made history in 1987 with a 200-student, 24-hour sit-in shutting down Fleming Hall. The second portion – Political Education – will feature student and faculty-led sessions on issues ranging from affirmative action and political organizing to the relationship between campus and community and curriculum design. Finally, the Strategy segment of the evening will focus on coalition building and exploring innovative ways to create lasting change in the university’s climate. The evening will also feature performance art, music, and free food and all are welcome to participate.

Our event runs through the night for twelve hours.  We chose such a long event format to draw from UM’s rich history of student activism, notably the 1965 overnight Teach-In to protest the Vietnam War. Organizers held the event throughout the evening to not disrupt classes or conflict with much-needed study spaces.  Like the 1965 event, we will bring 1,000 people together to have a much-needed dialogue about a pressing issue that has national resonance. There have yet to be any town hall or mass meetings on campus to engender anything but clandestine and clouded solutions. Our goal is to imagine what an inclusive space on campus dedicated to issues of race, class, gender and sexuality might look like, and create it. We are Michigan, The Black Student Union, and the #BBUM campaign have bravely advanced the first calls for a new movement for diversity and inclusion on campus, but it cannot stop with the struggle of a few. The Speak Out will be geared towards hearing from students of color who are not parts of executive boards or other leading student organizations. We will develop organizing tools and strategies, so students can create a sustainable movement that will pressure the incoming administration and hold it accountable for previous commitments.  Now is our time to be heard. Now is our time to speak out.


(Image © Michigan Daily, 1965)

Fed Up with the Violence at University of Michigan

We are fed up with the violence that is being committed at the University of Michigan by those with power. Fed up with our bodies being used for the benefit of those at the top.

Fed up with a university administration and athletic department that has violently acted for 4 years to cover up and suppress the details surrounding football player Brendan Gibbons’s rape of an 18-year old UM female student in November 2009.

Fed up with the top administrators’ silence on Brendan Gibbons’s violent use of this woman’s body for his pleasure in order that they could continue using the body of one of UM’s athletes to bring in large profits that feed into their exorbitant salaries.

Fed up with how the university’s promotion of a culture of immunity for those high in its hierarchy of power fosters the perpetuation of rape across campus.

Fed up with the 12 forcible rapes on campus property, 7 forcible rapes on non-campus property, 2 forcible rapes on public property, and 12 forcible rapes in campus residency halls that were reported in 2012.

Fed up with the university’s violent exploitation of the bodies of its staff (71% of whom are women) to extract as much labor as possible from them with as little consideration as possible for their humanity.

Fed up with how, on Tuesday, January 28th, staff had to choose either to travel to work and risk exposure of their bodies to frostbite or to lose the day’s salary.

Fed up with Mary Sue Coleman defending her and other executives’ six figure salaries (the top 16 executives make $7.49 million in base pay) while claiming that the university has to limit its spending and thus fire, uproot from their offices, and dock the pay of long-term staff members.

Fed up with the entire process of Administrative Services Transformation (AST) as a calculated scheme of fear, intimidation and threats in which staff are completely left in the dark about their future possibilities to have a career at UM and must follow a humiliating process of re-selling the labor capacities of their bodies if they are able to be considered for re-hire or a severance package.

Fed up with astronomical executive salaries and administration declarations of the importance of diversity when the only multicultural space available is an off-campus run-down building that lacks funding and visibility and has been placed on the university’s periphery, just like the students of color that the university claims to support.

Fed up with how the university has used black and brown bodies on their pamphlets and advertising materials in order to give the appearance that UM supports diversity, when in reality, students of color—not UM—are the ones actively struggling for diversity to be taken seriously within the often-hostile environment of the university.

Fed up with how the university has consistently broken its promises since 1970 to increase black enrollment to 10 percent. In fact, these promises were only made in the first place as a result of direct actions led by students of color.

Fed up with bodies of color being the targets of campus and Ann Arbor police and of stereotypes, racial slurs, and incredible underrepresentation, and thus misrepresentation, in university classrooms, residence halls, and departments.

University of Michigan administrators and executives, we are fed up with your university.

It’s now time to make it our university. It’s time to fight to take back our bodies for ourselves. Since you have demonstrated to us that the only thing you recognize is our bodies, it appears that we will have to use our bodies to demonstrate something to you.

We will have to join together and stand-up, sit-in, and speak-out until you begin to take seriously (through actions and not empty words) that we control our bodies and our university.

(Photo via the Michigan Daily)