BY YAGO COLáS
Published February 5, 2013
As a reminder of this scandal, and of the larger, still unresolved issues of the place of money in college athletics and of the place of athletics in higher education, restoring the banners shows that Michigan is unafraid of a candid discussion of these issues, including frankly confronting its own participation in the multi-million-dollar business. To imagine that hiding the banners away in the Bentley somehow signifies that Michigan is immune to the influence of big business in college athletics seems to me at best naïve. But more importantly, it does a disservice to all in the University community who wish to examine these issues forthrightly and to learn from the examination.
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Lastly, the banners represent our past — a complex past both inspiring and troubling. In having such a past, the University is no different from any of us, the individuals comprising it. We may feel the impulse to turn our backs on aspects of our past that trouble us. But an important part of the process of maturing with integrity, as individuals, as a community and as a society, involves opening ourselves to that past. Restoring the banners sets an example for members of the Michigan community and, indeed, for other universities and social institutions in general, that the best way to move forward is by fearlessly incorporating an understanding of that past into the present as we orient ourselves toward the future.
Thus, I currently believe the University should restore the banners to Crisler. I feel even more strongly that any decision on the fate of the banners should be preceded by a public discussion in the University community.
Whatever else it may stand for, the University certainly must stand for the free exchange of ideas on matters of importance to its students, faculty, staff, alumni and administrators. This is what I try to exemplify for and encourage in my students. The banners offer our community an important opportunity to discuss publicly, and educate one another on such issues as the ethics of amateur athletics in the University, race and racism and how we relate to troublesome aspects of our shared history.
Perhaps the result of such a discussion will be that the University community decides to keep the banners where they are. But a free and public discussion of the banners, I believe, is the only fitting way for the University to honor its core values and thus move forward with integrity
I respectfully call on President Coleman, Athletic Director Dave Brandon and all interested members of the Michigan family to undertake such a discussion.
Yago Colás is associate professor of Comparative Literature.