The University of Michigan’s Black Student Union (BSU) hosted a public address event titled “More Than Four” Tuesday evening. Members at the event presented the organization’s four-point platform that aims to support and advocate for Black students at the University. The platform’s four points call on the University to increase Black student admission, combat anti-Blackness, improve DEI policies and to help make K-12 education more equitable.
Later Tuesday night, hours after the “More Than Four” address, BSU members found flyers they had posted around central campus torn down. These posters were promoting the “More Than Four” platform, leaving members of BSU and the campus community frustrated with a “continued disregard for the needs of Black students.”
The first point of the platform is increasing Black student enrollment. Currently, less than 4.2% of the University’s undergraduate student population was Black in 2021, which BSU said has not changed significantly from the percentage of Black students in 1970. The BSU has continuously demanded the percentage be proportional to the demographics of the state, where 14% of residents are Black.
Public Policy senior Kayla Tate stressed the importance of increasing enrollment of Black students and pointed to the University’s lack of support for Black students.
“It is the University’s strategy to present itself as a powerless victim to a racist and unjust society,” Tate said. “We know, however, that this institution is not a victim … At the hands of the University, Black students are harmed daily.”
The second point of the platform demands the University to be transparent about the specific steps they are taking as an institution to combat anti-Blackness on campus. At the rally, Business senior Taylor Smith, co-community outreach chair at the BSU, said the University continues to neglect the fact that all Black students have unique experiences with racism on campus and that the University has historically neglected their specific needs.
“Everybody else can sit here and just focus on their academics,” Smith said. “(Black students) have so many other things that we are dealing with, but the University focuses on it as ‘all minorities need the same thing.’”
The third point of the platform urges the University to rectify flaws in its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) plan, which Black students have previously expressed disappointment for the plan not adequately addressing anti-Blackness on campus. In their platform, BSU said they believe DEI initiatives are not effective because they do not sufficiently allow for Black students’ input to influence the development of University programs.
In October 2016, the University launched a five-year DEI plan — which was an $85 million investment — aimed at increasing enrollment of minority students and supporting socioeconomic diversity. During DEI 1.0, however, students questioned the effectiveness of the plan after multiple instances of hate acts occurred targeting Black and Jewish students on campus. Following the initial plan, the University announced they will launch a new DEI plan in fall 2023, nicknamed DEI 2.0. Until then, the University is in a “transitional” phase between the two plans during which the U-M administration is evaluating the first plan and developing the next DEI strategic plan.
LSA sophomore Princess-J’Maria Mboup said DEI needs to be created alongside students in order to fully address the needs of Black students.
“DEI is structurally top-down,” Mboup said. “That is exclusive to students, especially Black students. When the needs of Black students are not explicitly centered, they tend to be neglected.”
The fourth point of the platform calls on the University to work with local and state government officials to invest in addressing inequalities in public K-12 education, and to help close the opportunity gap for Black students in the K-12 educational system.
LSA junior Brooklyn Blevins said the BSU has sent their platform to U-M administrative officials, including University President Santa Ono and the Board of Regents. Blevins said BSU is requesting the U-M administration to meet with the organization.
“We expect a response in the form of a public statement as well as a scheduled meeting with the aforementioned parties and the Black Student Union to establish a strategic plan and subsequent measures of accountability,” Blevins said.
In an email to The Michigan Daily, University spokesperson Kim Broekhuizen said the University responded directly to BSU about the platform, and that the University hopes to establish a constructive relationship with BSU going forward.
“University leadership has responded directly to BSU, and is committed to establishing a relationship built upon our shared goals and values,” Broekhuizen said.
A couple of hours after the protest, BSU posted on their Instagram that they had found the “More Than Four” flyers they had spread around on campus tore down in various locations around central campus. It is not clear who may have removed the posters.
“This action demonstrates the continued display of disregard for the needs of Black students on this campus which is allowed due to the University’s lack of attentiveness, responsiveness, and actionable steps to combat anti-Blackness at the University of Michigan,” BSU wrote on Instagram.
Broekhuizen responded to the incident in an email to The Daily and wrote that the University does not support this type of conduct. She encouraged students to look at the University’s Campus Climate Support page, where students can report concerns regarding discrimination or harassment.
“We do not condone any harmful or destructive acts to property or public spaces,” Broekhuizen wrote. “Conversations about race, equity and justice are critically important for our community, and this sort of behavior is in direct opposition to our community standards and our collective growth as a campus. Additionally, our campus community is stronger when diverse points of view are freely expressed.”
In an email statement to The Daily, BSU responded to the incident, saying it is only more indicative of how the University must address anti-Blackness on campus..
“We are disgusted by this shameful display of anti-Blackness, however, we are not surprised,” BSU wrote. “The climate and culture at U-M is not and has never been safe for Black students. It is imperative that the University publicly condemn such acts. This blatant disregard for the wellbeing of Black students only reinforces the urgent need for university action on issues related to anti-Blackness and the tenants outlined in our ‘More Than Four: 4 Point Platform’.”
At the protest Tuesday, LSA sophomore Samantha Green told The Michigan Daily that the University tends to neglect to comment on racism.
“I’m honestly not surprised,” Green said. “I think that it coincides with their history on speaking on this.”
LSA sophomore Lauren Burnside also attended the protest. She told The Daily that the presentation of the platform at the event is important in raising student awareness and that the University’s silence is disappointing.
“I think we’ve been waiting a long time for something like this (rally),” Burnside said. “The University’s silence is, of course, not surprising to anyone on this campus, but it’s very disappointing. I think it’s really important to have stuff like this go on so that the community is aware of what’s going on.”